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The Warsaw Voice » Other » September 30, 2009
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Road to the European Union
September 30, 2009   
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Poland signed the European Union Association Agreement with the European Community and its member states Dec. 16, 1991. During the European Council in Copenhagen in June 1993, EU member states officially confirmed that Central and Eastern European Countries associated with the EU at the time would become EU members once they met economic and political criteria.

April 8, 1994, the Polish government formally applied for EU membership in Athens. Oct. 3, 1996, the Office of the Committee for European Integration (UKIE) was established to coordinate the work of ministries and institutions which were directly involved in the process of Poland's integration with the EU. In January 1997, Poland adopted the National Integration Strategy to identify tasks to be fulfilled, complete with deadlines, en route to EU membership. All adjustments required by future membership were carried out under the National Program of Preparations for EU Membership, adopted June 23, 1998.

Poland declared it would be ready to join the EU as of Dec. 31, 2002. Membership negotiations began Nov. 10, 1998, and by 2000, Poland had closed talks in 25 of 30 negotiation chapters, securing transition periods in nine of the 25. The remaining five chapters were negotiated in 2001-2002. The negotiations came to a conclusion at the EU summit in Copenhagen Dec. 13, 2002.

The Polish accession treaty was approved in the European Parliament by an absolute majority of votes April 9, 2003, and unanimously by the Council of the EU five days later, April 14. The next step towards the EU enlargement was the ratification of the accession treaty by national parliaments in all EU member states except for Ireland, where the treaty had to be ratified in a referendum.

In Poland, the treaty was ratified in a nationwide referendum held June 7 and 8, 2003. Polish citizens were asked the following question: "Do you agree for the Republic of Poland to accede to the European Union?" According to official figures, the turnout in the referendum was 58.85 percent, of which 77.45 percent voted "yes" and 22.55 percent voted "no." The accession treaty was signed in Athens April 16, 2003, after which Poland officially became a member state of the European Union May 1, 2004.

Poland held the first elections to the European Parliament June 13, 2004. Dec. 21, 2007, Poland joined the Schengen Agreement and March 29, 2008 it fulfilled the Schengen criteria concerning air travel.

Another integration step for Poland in the coming years is to adopt the European currency, the euro. Declarations made by the government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk suggest this will be possible as early as in 2011, but both Polish and EU economists are far more restrained in their forecasts. According to them, a more realistic date for Poland to join the eurozone is 2013-2014.
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