Euro zone crisis: the view from the Continent’s east side

The World

Warsaw – I'm in Warsaw on assignment and came across a very interesting interview in the current edition of the Warsaw Business Journal.  It's with Tadeusz Mazowiecki, the first post-Communist Prime Minister of Poland and current adviser to Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski.

Here are some of the key points:

"There is a financial crisis in the euro zone. This has had a psychological effect on Poles, but I do not think it has had a fundamental influence on our attitude towards the European Union, which remains positive. There is a deep-rooted social awareness that the future of Poland is linked with the European Union, and the young generation does not remember the time when we fought for our membership of the EU, and treats it as a natural thing."

Mazowiecki expresses a continental view of the EU that is often not understood in New York, Washington and London. The Union won't disintegrate under the pressure from the euro zone crisis because:

"All Europeans know how valuable the EU is and what a terrible loss its break-up would be. In my view, Europeans do not want the collapse of the EU and a return to the “Concert of Powers” and the hostile rivalry between European countries. Even those who present the vision of the Union’s collapse are aware of the value of the EU."

But the tricky thing for Poland at the moment is that the terms of its membership commit the country to joining the euro. Mazowiecki goes all obscure about when that should happen:

"In due course Poland should adopt the single currency, because it is in Poland’s interest. But I think a broad debate on adopting the euro is needed, because society should be prepared to take such a step."

A lot of preparation will be necessary.  Elsewhere in the paper the results of recent public opinion research notes that in 2002 64 percent of Poles were in favor of joining the single currency. Today that has boomeranged around and 60 percent say they are opposed joining the euro.

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