Poland on verge of EU jobs agreement

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Series Details Vol.7, No.45, 6.12.01, p4
Publication Date 06/12/2001
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Date: 06/12/01

By David Cronin

POLAND expects that a deal resolving the protracted row over how long its citizens should wait before accepting jobs in EU member states should finally be achieved next week.

The country's chief negotiator with the EU, Jan Truszczynski, said he is hopeful a "political compromise" can be secured on the issue during Tuesday's (11 December) enlargement talks.

This would involve Warsaw accepting a transitional period of up to seven years between its accession to the EU and the date at which Poles may work legally anywhere in the Union. In return, the Union would agree to a 12-year delay on allowing foreigners to buy Polish land.

Warsaw, added Truszczynski, "had not registered any signals" of unease with that trade-off proposal from EU capitals, since it first became public in mid-November. It provides proof, he said, that Leszek Miller's newly installed government is willing to keep its pledge of being flexible in the enlargement talks. The previous administration had insisted on immediate opening of EU labour markets to its citizens after accession and an 18-year delay on the land acquisition issue.

However, closure of the latter chapter would only be provisional as the technical details of how the deal would be implemented have not yet been presented to the European Commission. A document outlining them is currently being completed and will then require approval by the government before being forwarded to Brussels.

With 11 of the thematic chapters on which the enlargement talks are based still open, Poland has been one of the most sluggish applicant states in adapting to EU laws. Many enlargement officials have been perturbed that the largest former communist state wishing to join the Union has until recently been reluctant to budge from its entrenched positions on labour movement and land sales.

Its change of heart was encapsulated last week by Miller's statement that there had been "disproportionate concern" both in Poland and EU countries on the two issues. Fears both of an influx of Polish workers to the Union and of outsiders buying up Polish land have both been exaggerated, the prime minister argued.

But Truszczynski sounded a note of caution by pointing out that the 'road map' agreed at June's Göteborg summit only provided for "40 working weeks" of discussion on how farming can be modernised in the applicant states.

The agriculture chapter is widely recognised as the most difficult for Poland, which has more farmers than any of the existing EU countries.

The negotiator said the involvement of the agrarian Peasant's Party in its Democratic Left-led coalition would not be a "decisive factor" in its attitude towards the agriculture talks, due to kick of in the early New Year. "Whatever the composition of the Polish government, the economic and social interests of the Polish countryside must duly be taken account of," he added.

Poland expects that a deal resolving the protracted row over how long its citizens should wait before accepting jobs in EU Member States should finally be achieved during enlargement talks on 11 December 2001.

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