POLAND IN UNITED EUROPE
Co-operation of Poland with European Communities till 1989. Political and economic relations of Poland (PRP, The People’s Republic of Poland from 1952) with western countries became drastically limited after the World War II due to the political system imposed on Poland by the Soviet Union. In the economic sphere these relations were conditioned by PRP’s membership from 1949 in the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA, 1949-1991), containing socialistic countries subordinated to the USSR. CMEA was an organisation based on rules different from free market rules and until the beginning if the nineties of the 20th century was a tool of the Soviet Union’s economic competition with the free democratic world. Poland, just like other countries in East-Central Europe belonging to Russia’s influence sphere, for a few dozen of years could not conduct sovereign foreign and economic policy and in connection with it could not develop its contacts with the West in an unimpeded way. Only at the end of the eighties of the 20th century this disadvantageous for Poland situation changed as a result of the communistic system bankruptcy and disintegration of the Soviet Union and military structures of the Warsaw Pact (1955-1991). 1989 was a breakthrough year for Poland’s newest history when the first unrestricted parliamentary election in the post-war history was organised (4 June and 18 June 1989). At that time Poland opened the Diplomatic Post to the European Communities in Brussels (July 1989, Jan Kułakowski became the first ambassador). On 19 September 1989 the long awaited and essential for Polish reforms Agreement between the European Economic Community and the People’s Republic of Poland on trade and commercial and economic cooperation was signed. It initiated the normal, not burdened with political or ideological influences, co-operation with members of the European Communities.
The Association Agreement. Poland’s road to the membership in the European Communities and the European Union led through an association agreement. The issue of associating countries of East-Central Europe with the European Communities appeared officially for the first time during the meeting of the European Council in Strasburg on 8 – 9 December 1989. On 20 July 1990, at the meeting of foreign affairs ministers of the twelve countries in Dublin, the decision to tighten political and economic relations with East-Central European countries which excel in democratic reforms (Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia) was confirmed. The Commission was obliged to undertake certain activities in this field. The Communities regarded economic agreements signed with individual countries from the socialistic block at that time as the introduction to closer co-operation within the frameworks of association agreements. These agreements were adjusted to possibilities of socialistic countries of those days. The European Communities’ leaders’ intention was to connect them with the progress in public life democratisation in East-Central European counties. The initial draft of the association agreements was prepared by the Commission in August 1990. Initially the treaties were signed by the three above mentioned counties which at that time excelled in political and economic reforms. Poland was among them. Association agreements, also called the Europe Agreements served the purpose of building mutual trust and stability enabling effective implementation of reforms, development of commercial relations, building foundations for financial co-operation of countries associated with the European Communities, as well as the inclusion of East-Central European counties in the process of European integration.
From the beginning Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia treated the association agreements, suggested to them, as a transient stage on the way to the full membership in the European Communities. Under their pressure the Communities finally decided to verify their very careful attitude to accepting new Eastern European democracies in their group. On 15 April 1991 the Council, in accord with the Commission, agreed to a record in the preamble of the European Agreements saying that the ultimate aim of the Eastern European countries concerned is the membership in the European Communities. The Communities were supposed to help them to achieve this goal in the future. The European Agreement establishing an association between the European Communities and their Member States and the Republic of Poland and the Hungarian and Czech Europe Agreements, were signed in Brussels on 16 December 1991. The association agreement with Poland was ratified by Poland on 4 July 1992 (Dz.U. 1992, nr 60, poz. 302) and came into effect as a full after the approval by the European Parliament and ratification by the parliaments of the member states of the Communities/the European Union on 1 February 1994 (Dz. U. 1994, nr 11, poz. 39). Together with the association agreement a transient commercial agreement was signed (the Interim Agreement), which was to be valid till the association agreement came into force, at the beginning of February 1994. The Interim Agreement, and more specifically the commercial part of the Polish Europe Agreement, came into force on 1 March 1992.
Poland’s membership in the European Union. Not long after the Interim Agreement came into effect, in September 1992, the countries of the so called the Visegrád Group (Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia), came out with a brave memorandum manifesting their aspiration to achieving the membership in the European Communities and the European Union arising at that time. The signatories of the memorandum expressed their common will to qualify for the membership in the European Union by the end of that decade, appealing to the leaders of the Communities to „[…] respond to -their- efforts, by clearly stating that integration […] of economies, societies, leading to the membership in the Communities, is also the goal of the Communities themselves”. Under the influence of the associated countries’ unequivocal stance at the European Council’s summit in Copenhagen on 21─22 June 1993 the European Communities made a significant decision pertaining to their future enlargement by incorporating countries from the former socialistic group, stating that their „Accession will take place as soon as an associated country is able to assume the obligations of membership by satisfying the economic and political conditions required”. Soon after that the settlements from Copenhagen resulted in the acceptance of the adoption and implementation schedule both for the European Communities and their institutions as well as for the associated countries applying for the membership in the European Union. On 8 April 1994 in Athens Andrzej Olechowski the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland, , handed the representatives of the Greece EU Presidency the application for Poland’s accession to the European Union. The delivery of the accession application started the last stage in Poland’s way to the membership in the European Union. During the summit of the European Council in Essen, on 8-9 December 1994 pre-accession strategy for the associated countries was accepted. It was necessary to wait for Communities’ ultimate decisions concerning their future enlargement and related declarations until the acceptance of the next treaty, the Treaty of Amsterdam (1997, came into force on 1 May 1999), which included the declaration of the enlargement of the Communities and the European Union so long awaited by the applicant countries. The Treaty of Amsterdam laid down that accession negotiations with applicant countries, including Poland, will start at the beginning of 1998. Poland’s accession negotiations with the European Union officially started on 31 March 1998 in Brussels during the Intergovernmental Accession Conference. Poland was represented by Bronisław Geremek the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland.
Poland’s accession negotiations with the European Union lasted almost 4 years. They encompassed the review of the compliance of national law with communal legislation, acquis communautaire (so called. screening), formation of negotiation stances, actual negotiations based on established negotiation stances, work on the accession treaty and the ratification of the accession agreement by all member states of the European Union. The European Union finalised the negotiations with all applicant countries on 13 December 2002. On 9 April 2003 the European Parliament expressed its consent for signing of the Treaty of Accession, and on 14 April the Council of the European Union finally approved the accession applications of the applicant countries. On 16 April 2003 in Athens representatives of the European Union’s member states and of the accessing countries signed the Treaty of Accession. For Poland’s part the treaty was signed by Leszek Miller the Prime Minister of the Polish Republic and Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland. The signatures were put in the presence of Aleksander Kwaśniewski the President of the Republic of Poland. The accession procedure was completed by a national referendum, taking place on 7─8 June 2003. In the referendum Polish citizens opted for Poland’s accession to the European Union (77, 5 % participants of the referendum supported the accession). By virtue of the Treaty of Accession Poland became a full member of the European Union on 1 May 2004.