Neighbors & Geography: Poland is bordered by the Baltic Sea, Russia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Germany. The climate is cold with harsh winters and high precipitation throughout the mostly flat country.
Historical Note: Poland is an ancient country dating back to the 10th century. In 1772 it was divided among 3 other countries and reunited in 1918. Germany and the Soviet Union used it as a satellite state after World War II, though it remained progressive on its own. Solidarity, an independent trade union that gained political power and eventually control in the early 1990’s played an important role in Poland’s economy and political policies, but presently has become rather insignificant. Poland joined NATO in 1999 and will become part of the European Union in May 2004.
Political Situation: Poland has a bicameral National Assembly made up of 460 seats that are voted for by proportional representation and a Senate consisting of 100 seats, each being elected for four years.
Presidend Aleksander Kwasniewski was elected in 1995 for a five year term, and the Prime Minister Leszek Miller was appointed by the president with the approval of the National Assembly. The All Poland Trade Union Alliance (OPZZ) and the Roman Catholic Church, headed by Cardinal Jozef Glemp, as well as the Solidarity Trade Union continue to offer the most political pressure and influence in the country.
Economic Situation: Poland’s economy may best be described an economy that would be thriving if it was not backed up behind so much “red tape.” The country has very positive policies concerning privatization of smaller companies which has allowed for growth in that area, but that area is still backed up behind other legal red tape and reforms that still need to be addressed. The agricultural section would be thriving if not for structural problems very limited investing. Progress has been made in many areas because of Poland’s desire to meet expectations of the EU for membership.
Population: 38,622,6660 (July 2003 estimate)
GDP per capita: $9,500 (purchasing power parity)
Military Budget: $3.5 billion
Red Button: Poland has been concerned in recent years with meeting requirements for membership to the EU, which it will be joining in May 2004. It also has its share of environmental concerns left over from communist factories, etc.