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6/11/03 - POLES VOTE TO JOIN E-U - 2003-06-11

In a nationwide referendum, Polish voters overwhelming voted to join the European Union, or E-U. Poland is returning to the great European family, Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski said:

“This is a fact, Poland is in the European Union now. I’m applauding my countrymen. I’m applauding Poland."

Nearly eighty-percent of Polish voters backed accession to the E-U, with about a sixty-percent voter turnout. Poland is one of eight former Communist countries, along with Malta and Cyprus, invited to join the E-U in May 2004. So far, seven of these countries have held referendums approving membership.

With incomes averaging about forty percent of those in West Europe, many Poles are eager for their country to join the E-U for economic reasons. As Mr. Bogdan Kliment, a corporate executive, said, “There is no other choice for Poland. It will mean better opportunities for our children, and the common economy is better for all of us.”

One of those voting for E-U membership was Poland’s last Communist leader, General Wojciech Jaruzelski. If someone had predicted this twenty years ago, he said, “I would have said that it is science fiction, the theater of the absurd.” But that’s the beauty of life, said General Jaruzelski. Realities change. “It’s a new reality and you have to take it into account. I took account of it by voting for Poland’s entry into the E-U.”

With thirty-eight million people, Poland is the largest of the countries preparing to join the E-U, said Poland’s ambassador to the U.S., Przemyslaw Grudzinski:

“Poland will count among the six biggest members of the E-U. Germany, France, and Great Britain form the biggest players with the biggest numbers of voting power and then comes Spain, Italy, and Poland with again the equal number of votes.”

As an E-U member, Poland will be able to take its place as a full partner in Europe.