Ten Years of EU Membership for Poland

Geoff Riley

28th May 2014

May 2014 marks the tenth anniversary of Poland's accession to the European Union. Poland was easily the largest of the ten countries that came into the EU single market a decade ago. It was an important economic and geo-political moment for a country of just under forty million inhabitants.

The country has always traded heavily with the EU and that trade dependency has deepened over the last ten years. According to economists at HSBC, Poland is well placed to sustain strong export growth even though much of Western Europe as a whole is struggling to escape from below trend growth.

Poland has had the most stable growth of any economy in Europe in recent years. It avoided a recession in the aftermath of the Global Financial crisis - helped in part by the depreciation of the Polish Zloty. The economy is the sixth biggest in Europe and in the top twenty five countries ranked by GDP. Steady progress in lifting relative incomes per capita towards the EU28 average has helped to grow the size of the middle-class consumer sector - a big opportunity for British businesses looking to invest in the country.

Convergence in living standards and other background data on Poland's ten years inside the EU

  1. On 1 May 2004, ten countries joined the EU: Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta
  2. In 2003, Poland's GDP per capita (PPP) was only 49% of the EU-27 average, while in 2012, it was 67%
  3. Poland's GDP of around $520 billion is more than one third of the combined GDP of the other new EU member states: Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovak Republic and Slovenia. It also amounts to around 1 percent of the world's GDP
  4. The economy has grown each year since 1992
  5. Between the years 2005-2012, the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion in Poland decreased by 7 million, and 1.3 million people were lifted out of poverty
  6. Poland has moved up from the 48th position in 2004 to the 33rd position in 2013 in the IMD World Competitiveness Rankings
  7. The country runs an annual trade surplus with fellow member nations inside the EU equivalent to around 6% of her GDP
  8. Tourism has become increasingly important - In 2014, one hundred cities in the world have direct flight connections to Warsaw, four times as many as before Poland's EU accession
  9. In part because of EU structural / regional funds in 2004–2013, 673 km of motorways have been built; 808 km of expressways have been built or modernised, 36,000 km of sewage network and 683 sewage treatment plants have been constructed

Suggestions for further reading

Guardian: Polish immigration into Britain - ten years on:

BBC: How do Poles think about the EU?

Huffington Post: I'm Polish and it has been an interesting ten years!

BBC: Contrasting fortunes, Portugal and Poland:

World Bank report: Poland's new golden age : shifting from Europe's periphery to its centre:

According to the report listed immediately above:

"Poland, the largest economy among post-socialist EU member states and the sixth largest economy in the European Union on the purchasing power parity basis, has just had probably the best 20 years in more than one thousand years of its history."

Geoff Riley

Geoff Riley FRSA has been teaching Economics for over thirty years. He has over twenty years experience as Head of Economics at leading schools. He writes extensively and is a contributor and presenter on CPD conferences in the UK and overseas.

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