COUNTRIES

POLAND

Programs Offered

Krakow: Jagiellonian University

A few facts about the country:

OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of Poland

GOVERNMENT TYPE: Republic

CHIEF OF STATE: President Lech KACZYNSKI (since 23 December 2005)

POPULATION: 38,500,696

LOCATION: Central Europe, east of Germany

TERRAIN AND CLIMATE: Mostly flat plain; mountains along southern border. Temperate with cold, cloudy, moderately severe winters with frequent precipitation; mild summers with frequent showers and thundershowers

OFFICIAL LANGUAGE: Polish

GENERAL HISTORY: Poland is an ancient nation that was conceived near the middle of the 10th century. Its golden age occurred in the 16th century. During the following century, the strengthening of the gentry and internal disorders weakened the nation. In a series of agreements between 1772 and 1795, Russia, Prussia, and Austria partitioned Poland amongst themselves. Poland regained its independence in 1918 only to be overrun by Germany and the Soviet Union in World War II. It became a Soviet satellite state following the war, but its government was comparatively tolerant and progressive. Labor turmoil in 1980 led to the formation of the independent trade union "Solidarity" that over time became a political force and by 1990 had swept parliamentary elections and the presidency. A "shock therapy" program during the early 1990s enabled the country to transform its economy into one of the most robust in Central Europe, but Poland still faces the lingering challenges of high unemployment, underdeveloped and dilapidated infrastructure, and a poor rural underclass. Solidarity suffered a major defeat in the 2001 parliamentary elections when it failed to elect a single deputy to the lower house of Parliament, and the new leaders of the Solidarity Trade Union subsequently pledged to reduce the Trade Union's political role. Poland joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004. With its transformation to a democratic, market-oriented country largely completed, Poland is an increasingly active member of Euro-Atlantic organizations.

ECONOMY: Poland has pursued a policy of economic liberalization since 1990 and today stands out as a success story among transition economies. In 2007, GDP grew an estimated 6.5%, based on rising private consumption, a jump in corporate investment, and EU funds inflows. GDP per capita is still much below the EU average, but is similar to that of the three Baltic States. Since 2004, EU membership and access to EU structural funds have provided a major boost to the economy. Unemployment is falling rapidly, though at roughly 12.8% in 2007, it remains well above the EU average. Tightening labor markets, and rising global energy and food prices, pose a risk to consumer price stability. In December 2007 inflation reached 4.1% on a year-over-year basis, or higher than the upper limit of the National Bank of Poland's target range. Poland's economic performance could improve further if the country addresses some of the remaining deficiencies in its business environment. The PO/PSL coalition government which came to power in November 2007 plans to further reduce the budget deficit with the aim of eventually adopting the euro. The new government has also announced its intention to enact business-friendly reforms, reduce public sector spending growth, lower taxes, and accelerate privatization. However, the government does not have the necessary two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto, and thus may have to water down initiatives in order to garner enough support to pass its pro-business policies.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: Poland remains largely free of terrorist incidents. However, like other countries in the Schengen area, Poland’s open borders with its Western European neighbors allow the possibility of terrorist groups entering/exiting the country with anonymity. Americans are reminded to remain vigilant with regard to their personal security.