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15th anniversary of Poland’s accession to the European Union

What was then, and what is now...

Fifteen years ago, when Poland was entering the European Union, people used to say that “Poland is returning to Europe”. On the one hand, it sounded strange because culturally and geographically we have always been part of the Old Continent. On the other hand, until 1989, we could only watch our western neighbours through the Iron Curtain with envy. While vinegar was reigning on our store shelves, the economies of the integrating countries of the Community were developing at a very rapid pace. The abundance was reigning there.

Poland’s accession to the EU was rightly considered a historical opportunity. This was shown by the results of the accession referendum. In June 2003, Poles jointly agreed that they wanted to become part of the EU community.

Thanks to that, a year later, on 1 May 2004, Poland became a rightful member of the European Union.

Today, when we actively co-createEuropean policy, it would be difficult to imagine the Union without us. Equally difficult – Poland outside the Union.

Citizens of Europe, citizens of the world

Numerous benefits of membership in the EU include one which we usually point first: free travel. Not so long ago, we could only dream about foreign voyages. Today, we can travel to the furthest corners of Europe and enjoy the treasures of common heritage without burdensome border controls, with the ID in hand.

Of course, trips are not just tourism. We can also live, work or study in all the countries of the Community. Our students and pupils, benefiting from exchanges, and experts valued abroad have been consistently building the Polish brand for years.

In addition, our goods and services have gained unlimited access to EU markets. This allowed us expanding production and increasing export.

Travel, studies, work, new markets – Poles have confidently entered the path of development as fast as never before.

Poland is developing

In recent years, Poland has been developing economically on an unprecedented scale. This is appreciated by international experts. In September 2018, the FTSE Russell index agency recognised the Polish capital market as developed rather than an emerging market. In the opinion of the World Bank, Poland shifted to countries with high income from the group with average income the fastest in the world, beside South Korea.

The unemployment rate is also historically low. In 2018, it was 6.1%. It is hard to believe that in 2003 this rate amounted to as much as 20%! In this respect, we are also leading the way in Europe.

Polish economy is becoming modern and competitive. Researchers are creating technologies which conquer global markets. The driving force behind our development is innovation, not low labour costs. All this attracts more and more foreign investors. A dozen or so years ago, such changes remained in the sphere of dreams, today they are already a fact.

Funds, funds

The pace of changes in the Polish infrastructure and economy is so fast that one can speak of a civilisational leap. Money from the common European budget had its share in it. For years we have been financing investments from it, changing not only the Polish landscape but also the economy.

The network of our roads is being expanded. We are waiting for more and more punctual railways not at neglected stations but at mini shopping centres. We are investing in the security and expansion of our airports. Access to broadband Internet also ceases to be the Achilles' heel.

Changes can be seen everywhere. Children attend better and better equipped schools and kindergartens. Polish entrepreneurs also benefit. They create innovative products which can compete with the offers of global companies. Polish cities are becoming more and more beautiful, cultural objects acquire new splendour.

Transformation – on such a scale and at such a rapid pace – would not be possible without money from the EU budget. Properly planned and effectively used, it has become an impulse for development.

Europe... can be liked!

Poles have gained a lot over the past 15 years. We systematically catch up with the EU level of socio-economic development. Importantly, development of individual regions has also accelerated. This means that we all benefit from being in the EU.

We are definitely wealthier. Both the minimum wage and the average salary have increased. It is enough to look at the amount of disposable income – an amount that remains at our disposal for expenses and savings after deduction of taxes or contributions. In 15 years, it has more than doubled.

We are also more satisfied with our lives than a few years ago. In 2016 – in the European Quality of Life Study, we assessed it at 7.5 in a 10-point scale.

It is not surprising then that we are one of more pro-European nations. Over half of the surveyed Poles assess positively the EU – this is one of higher results in the Eurobarometer90 survey!

Faster and better

If you compare the economy to a living organism, the infrastructure would be its bloodstream. Therefore, the condition for our development is its expansion.

It is hard to believe that 15 years ago we had 550 km of motorways and just over 200 kilometres of clearways in Poland. Now, we have three times more of the former, and almost eight times more of the latter! The largest front of railway works in Europe is also running through our country. Air transport is also developing. Since 2004, passenger traffic in Polish airports has increased almost six times, and regional airports have gained in importance.

We are increasing our digital potential as well. We plan that when the investments financed from EU funds for 2014-2020 are completed, access to the broadband network will be additionally granted to almost 2 million households and around 11,000 schools.

We are developing our infrastructure – with the support from the European budget – very dynamically. And our position on the logistic map of Europe is becoming stronger and stronger.

The new is coming

Polish economy has become more and more competitive in recent years. This is a feature appreciated by international experts, rating agencies and investors. In the past, mainly low labour costs determined our investment attractiveness. Now, we make sure that innovation becomes our strong trait. 

We have great potential when it comes to well-educated staff. Now that modern research and development centres are being created here, the chances of stopping the brain drain have increased considerably. Polish start-up ecosystem is also developing dynamically, which our economy is starting to feel. Our companies also effectively reach for EU money. They carry out ambitious projects, breakthrough on an international scale, from it. And Polish inventions are conquering foreign markets.

Time for culture

A measure of the country's development is also its cultural capital. Unfortunately, the times of fledgling capitalism were not kind to us in this respect. When we troubled our heads about mundane worries, there was often no time or... money left for culture. 

Today, when we are a much richer society than a dozen or so years ago, this situation is changing. Fortunately! Because Polish museums, theatres, philharmonics and libraries are enchanting more and more. European Funds have contributed to their renewal to a large extent. But that is not all! A dozen or so years ago, hardly anyone imagined that various valuable old prints and publications could gain a new life through their digitisation. Thanks to it, you can draw from the culture with both hands, practically not leaving the house.


Development of Polish cities

Even 15 years ago, the landscape of Polish cities was different from the one typical of that of their cousins from the western border. Destroyed tenement houses with flaky plaster, architectural nightmares, post-industrial ghost buildings... 

Today they are going into non-existence. City centres, historic market squares or old towns acquire a new light, becoming a space where you can have a nice time. Degraded post-industrial areas are changing into urban parks. And the place of creaky, damaged buses is taken by modern, low-floor and ecological ones. 

Polish cities – regardless of their size – are changing for the better before our eyes. They are becoming more modern, more attractive (also for investors) and simply more friendly to all of us. Small, medium or large – no doubt they are more and more comfortable to live in.

To rest better

The degree of development of societies is more and more often demonstrated by... the way we rest. Of course, this statement should be taken with a pinch of salt. The fact is that technology and civilisation development go hand in hand with more free time, which needs to be well managed.

Fortunately, today no one has a problem with it. Backyard carpet hangers were junked. Grown-ups or little ones – playing fields, playgrounds, city parks, outdoor gyms or bicycle paths are at the fingertips. And although we see them every day, most often we do not notice how many of them were created with the support of EU funds.

Tourist gem of the North 

Foamy waves of the Baltic Sea, calm plates of Masurian lakes, or maybe the high peaks of the Tatra Mountains or picturesque wilderness of Bieszczady? One thing is certain – there is a lot to choose from. The rich history and wonderful monuments, the beauty of nature, and above all Polish hospitality make our country a real paradise for tourists. It is no wonder that we also invest EU money in tourism. We create new lodging places, promote local tourist attractions. The gems of Polish architecture gain a whole new light. Modern, interactive museums which allow for a completely different reception of art are being created. 

Foreign guests more and more often choose Poland for their vacation destination. In 2017 alone, more than a dozen million tourists visited us. And we are also more and more willing to place delightful Polish landscapes above exotic trips.

To learn whole life

World-class specialists are a huge potential of our economy, and Polish computer programmers have already become a brand in itself. The diversity of education in Poland has changed a lot and the educational offer is getting richer and richer. Thanks to the EU funds, the institutions have also changed. Kindergartens, schools, universities – all are more modern and better equipped than a dozen or so years ago.

But that is not everything. There are equally many opportunities for adults. Courses and trainings which help to expand our competence? Here you are! There is really a lot to choose from.

Knowledge does not ask about the date of birth. But it is nice when it is served in an attractive way. Therefore, it is good that we can absorb it in interactive, modern learning centres and more and more multimedia “school benches.”

A lot of health!

2004 or 2019, one thing has not changed – no one likes to get sick. Beside this, everything has changed. Of course, there is still much to be done, but Polish hospitals and clinics are less and less reminiscent of the unsightly and poorly equipped facilities which they were not so long ago.  

Medicine – not only the native one – is changed by Polish inventions. Our country has always been able to boast of world-class specialists in the field of medicine. Now they have modern, specialised clinics at their disposal. 

And the only thing to regret is that we cannot eliminate getting sick.

"We do not rest on our laurels. We are facing further hard work for development of the country. I hope that the next fifteen years will be equally successful: for Poland, and for Europe and for you. May your dreams come true!" - Jerzy KwiecińskiMinister of Investment and Economic Development


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