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The Warsaw Voice » Comments » November 18, 2009
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From the News Editor
November 18, 2009   
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Many believe the events that took place in Berlin 20 years ago were the dawn of freedom in Central and Eastern Europe. In November 1989, the whole world saw footage of thousands of Germans tearing down the abhorrent Berlin Wall, which for decades had symbolized the division of Europe between the communist East and capitalist West. But the view that it was the fall of the wall that marked the beginning of change is false. The beginning came much earlier. Over the preceding decades, nations in Central Europe had repeatedly attempted to shake off the communist yoke imposed by Moscow. Hungarians tried in 1956 and the Czechs and Slovaks in 1968. The Poles made such attempts in 1956, 1970, 1980 and, successfully, at the end of 1988 and start of 1989. It was in Poland that Solidarity, the Eastern Bloc's first trade union independent of the communist authorities, emerged in 1980. It was in Poland that the region's first partially free elections took place in 1989, leading to the creation of the first non-communist government in a Soviet satellite state. These elections sounded the death knell for communism.

During the anniversary commemorations in Berlin, Western European politicians repeatedly referred to these events. They acknowledged that without the developments in Gdańsk in 1980 and Warsaw in 1989, and without Polish-born Pope John Paul II, the division of Europe, embodied by the Berlin Wall, would have lasted longer.

A new special investigation commission has been established in the lower house of parliament to probe the so-called "gambling scandal" in which politicians from the Civic Platform (PO), the senior party in the ruling coalition, supposedly lobbied on behalf of casino bosses. Also a bill is underway to radically restrict the range of legal gambling in Poland.

The European Commission forecasts that Poland will rapidly narrow the gap separating it from the wealthiest EU member states in the coming years. According to data for 2008, per capita GDP in Poland is 57 percent of the EU average, which places Poland 24th among the 27 EU countries. That position is far from ideal, but when Poland joined the EU in 2004, its per capita GDP was just slightly above 50 percent of the EU average. Meanwhile, in a United Nations league table of the richest countries in the world, Poland comes 41st among 140 surveyed countries.
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