Arab Today, arab today poland mulls referendum on eurozone entry
Last Updated : GMT 12:19:39
Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today

Poland mulls referendum on eurozone entry

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today Poland mulls referendum on eurozone entry

Warsaw - AFP

Poland is considering a referendum on joining the eurozone, a move analysts say is a way of staking a claim in the ongoing reform of the debt-laden currency union, while signalling a more realistic accession timeline. Prime Minister Donald Tusk this week floated the idea of a public vote on the unpopular euro as a solution to the impasse in parliament thwarting its adoption. For years, the right-wing opposition has vowed to block constitutional changes essential for the euro switch. The euro remains a goal for Tusk and his centrist government, and on Tuesday the premier said a referendum could settle the issue, "and that's for an obvious reason: fewer votes are needed to win". Under the terms of Poland's 2004 entry agreement into the European Union, the ex-communist nation of 38 million people is obliged to adopt the euro. While there is no deadline, Warsaw has vowed to meet entry criteria by 2015. Finance Minister Jacek Rostowski said Wednesday that public approval for entry was crucial but suggested scrapping the 50-percent turnout and approval threshold. Poland has had a wait-and-see approach to euro adoption as the 17-member single currency bloc struggles to resolve its protracted debt crisis. Warsaw only relaunched the debate on a target entry date in January, while manoeuvering for subsidies in the 2014-2020 EU budget. But it could become a question of Poland not wanting to be left behind. "If they (the government) want to move towards euro membership, they have to start doing it now," said Marcin Zaborowski, director of the Polish Institute of International Affairs. "That's the expectation in Brussels and elsewhere, and otherwise we're going to be excluded from major decision-making there," he told AFP. Former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing said in this week's Polish edition of Newsweek that increasingly, "the sluggish (European) Union of 27 countries" was being left behind by the hard core of the EU. A strong emerging economy, Poland has maintained growth each year since shedding communism two decades ago. It is the only EU member to have done so through the 2007-2009 global financial and eurozone crises. Analysts note that the free-floating zloty, which slumped against both the euro and dollar when the financial crisis hit, has buoyed exports. They suggest that given the euro's dismal popularity among Poles, the referendum idea could also be laying the groundwork for a more distant eurozone entry date. According to Konrad Soszynski, a BGZ bank analyst in Warsaw, Poland may be distancing itself from earlier promises that were over-the-top optimistic. In January, Tusk initially pushed for a decision on the euro to be made "in the coming months", before putting off practical steps towards joining the single currency until after elections in 2015. "The initial news seemed to suggest that Poland is galloping towards the eurozone and really intended to join in the near future -- so much so it was frightening -- and I don't think the government really has those intentions," Soszynski said. The referendum is thus "a campaign to shift the timeline, a way to show Europe it's not that easy, that it's not possible because public support is required and it's low now." Krzysztof Szczerski, a deputy from the eurosceptic PiS opposition party, which has long called for a referendum, welcomed the news but said that without a specific proposal there would be no negotiating. Even if the parties agree, Tusk's government will face an uphill battle to alter public opinion, as surveys this week showed that up to 64 percent of Poles oppose adopting the single currency. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers analyst Witold Orlowski, who as a presidential economics advisor worked on shifting public opinion before Poland entered the EU, the campaign will be harder this time around. "Everyone's flooded with terrible euro news on a daily basis," he told AFP. "That being the case, I'm actually surprised that even 40 percent of Poles want to adopt the euro."

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