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20 years of Poland and Central and Eastern Europe in the European Union. Many successes, but also one missed opportunity

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An increase in the standard of living, economic development and improved health – these are, according to the Swedish daily “Dagens Industri”, some of the successes of the accession of 10 countries, including Poland, to the European Union in 2004. A missed opportunity is the attitude of some Eastern European politicians who could have morally renewed the “old Union” but instead became adventurists.

The Swedish newspaper “Dagens Industri” assesses on Wednesday that an increase in the standard of living, healthier people and the environment are the successes of 20 years of membership in the European Union of ten countries, including Poland. The economic daily's commentator cites research results showing that thanks to EU enlargement, the difference in the level of satisfaction of the inhabitants of Western and Eastern Europe is disappearing.

“Over these 20 years, the EU economy has grown by 27 percent. The new member states have recorded growth above this average. For example, the Polish economy has more than doubled, and the Slovak economy by 80 percent. Today, six of the 11 post-communist countries belong to the euro zone,” the journalist emphasizes.

First of all, the author calls Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia the forces of real security policy in NATO and the guarantors of liberal reforms in the EU. “Poland periodically moved in the wrong direction, but it was also an active participant in cooperation, especially when it came to support for Ukraine. The country also provided the EU with the President of the European Council (Donald Tusk) and several colorful MEPs,” he notes.

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He adds that “today we can only wonder where Putin's assassination squads would be if it were not for the presence of Central and Eastern European countries in the EU and NATO.”

Enlargement is also a missed opportunity

However, the newspaper notes that, taking into account expectations, EU enlargement also turned out to be a missed opportunity. It recalls former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt's proposal in 2005 to move the EU headquarters from Brussels to Bratislava, where “the prospect will become more realistic.”

According to the commentator, the biggest disappointment is the critical attitude of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban towards the EU. “The ruling Fidesz party in Hungary was founded as an underground youth organization (in 1988 – ed.) for democracy and free elections, then its leader Viktor Orban was arrested. Eastern European politicians had experiences that could make them moral role models (…) in the new Europe, they became adventurers instead,” he emphasizes. According to the daily, they could morally restore the “old Union”.

Read also: Orban's rival party is gaining popularity

The author reminds that in Sweden, when new countries joined the EU, there were fears of “social tourism”, but ultimately Stockholm did not introduce transition periods in access to the labor market. “We hoped that this trust would be met with a different reaction,” the columnist sums up, giving the example of Hungary, whose parliament was the last to ratify Sweden's accession to NATO.

Referring to the process of EU enlargement by new countries, “Dagens Industri” postulates the need for Brussels to maintain “magnetism”, i.e. the will to carry out deep reforms by candidates for membership.

Main photo source: PAP/EPA/Olivier Matthys



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