Krzysztof Madel, S.J.

The Challenges Of An Uneasy Hope. Polish Accession To The EU


In October 2001 the PricewaterhouseCoopers, a big international consulting firm, caused a considerable consternation throughout the Europe publishing a study according to which nearly six million of Polish citizens, almost 40% of Poles in working age, would like to move to live and work in another European country within the next five years [Chart 1]. The study was reliable. It was based on a large inquiry made among 10,000 citizens of 10 European countries: Czech Rep., France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, and was made between June and August 2001. The key findings show that the EU is a preferred destination for 53% of Poles, who choose in the first place Germany (25%), later Italy (12%), the UK and France (each by 10%), Spain (9%), the Netherlands (8%), although one fifth of them points out the United States and Canada as a preferred destination.

The PricewaterhouseCoopers study seemed to be reliable also for other reasons. Since the Second World War, when Poland lost nearly six million of its citizens, Polish population has been growing according to a oscillatory pattern, in which high demographic tides have been followed by low ones. I.e., the cohort of primary schools pupils was so small in 1999, that the government decided to introduce a new system of national education, with a one year longer obligatory curriculum. In the same time the cohort of students leaving universities and professional schools was relatively much higher and produced high tide of the present unemployment and emigration.

High unemployment and enduring economic stagnancy are still a good reason to go abroad.  In 2002 unemployment rate reached in Poland 21,2%, but even up to 42,7% in the group 15-24 years old.  It is difficult to get a job, but it far more difficult in the province than in the big cities where unemployment rate oscillates around 5-8%. Polish economy is slowly recovering now, reaching presumably up to 2,5% of GDP growth in 2003, but the reliable economic perspectives for the young citizens are still very discouraging. The ongoing process of European integration remains for many a true blink of hope.

It is quite possible that the EU regulation on the free movement of persons will have in long term similar impact on migration tendencies as the political change of 1989 had. The number of Poles who decided to go abroad after the collapse of communism in any year after 1989 was by 40% smaller than between 1985-1989, when it counted about 29.000 emigrants a year, and by 19% smaller than in any year between 1980-1984 when annual middle was about 24.000 [Chart 2].  This quite unexpected evidence has much to do with the cultural and economic background. Large cohort of Poles leaving their country in the 80s, when the western borders were strictly closed and visas were difficult to get, was well determined to leave. Instead, free tourist movement reestablished in the 90s had never been accompanied by similar psychological atmosphere. Besides, the migration of the 80s was a real “brain-drain”, for many emigrants were well-educated, and they left their country for good. Instead, in the group of emigrants of 1988-1999, who usually were coming from the poorest regions, poorly educated cohort was reaching even up 80%, when in the same time group of emigrants with any university education diminished form about 10% in 1988 to mere 2-4% in 1999.

Standard monthly wage in Poland is nearly three times smaller than in Germany when apprised in its purchasing power on local market (respectively, $10.900 to $25,700), but it becomes nearly 6 times smaller when counted in exchange rates. Economic motives to go West will be however weakened by demographic trends. The young workforce of the 15-44 years old will diminish in Poland by about 570.000 till the year 2020. Diverse estimations on the volume of possible migration from the candidate countries to the UE differ according to different presupposition regarding social, political and economic situation on that countries [Chart 6] [Chart 7] [Chart 8]. The figures vary from 860.000 to 4.2m in total [Chart 8]. Heavy economic stagnancy in Poland alone would produce even up to 1.5m emigrants in the whole decade after enlargement, instead in a scenario of small economic growth would diminish this cohort to 711.000 of Poles, but in a scenario of the rapid economic growth in Poland one estimates that only 380.000 of Poles will decide to abroad [Chart 6].[#1]

Poles and Romanians, in contrast to the citizens of other post-communist countries, prefer traditional values, like religion, family, and country, over secular-rational ones, corresponding with pluralistic styles of life, but similarly to the other post-communists prefer “survival values”, concerning rudimental economic and physical security, over self-expression values, typical to the Western societies.[#2] Under communism private economic success was suspected and illegal. In the Eastern Europe (EE) nearly all great private fortunes have been rise through corruption, and not much changed today. Corruption is still growing in the EE.[#3] Lack of strong public ethics, deficit of private property accompanied by unrealistic economic expectations, inefficient public administration, and relatively high costs of juridical assistance are responsible for this.[#4] In such a context the united Europe, that is commonly perceived as a much richer and far less corrupted than the East, becomes a source of hope for many citizens. The new administrative procedures and other requirements imposed by the EU already improved the operational standards of public institutions, as the free market economy has improved them in the field of trade and management. The EU agreements on free trade will diminish the monopoly of the state in telecommunication, air communication, will also lower or depose many custom tariffs. Consumer prices will certainly grow in Poland, but exchange rates also will change and correspond better with present purchasing power party of the national currency, now much undervaluated in relation to the euro (up to 40%). Poles hope that the European integration will allow them to fulfill better their economic ambitions, and to defeat completely remnants of the old regime still visible in the public life and in the economic environment.

One of the unexpected byproducts of the highly artificial communist homogenization of the social life was a strange secrecy of life of the ordinary citizens, a sort of wartime conspiracy. The large part of people’s activity, i.e. their daily search for the essential goods, but also their intellectual life, was preformed against official doctrine and far away form the eyes of their closest neighbors. Subsequently, totalitarian communism created a highly atomized society of people who were working hard, nearly continually, having many “secondary jobs”, but working also very inefficiently, with small confidence to the others and to the transparent procedures. Such a “social solitude” was immediately accompanied by a deep conviction of futility and uselessness of any social activity – few political dissidents and religious leaders were unique active agents in that time. Presently, only one out of each 20 Poles belongs to any association or social movement, and only one out of five feels that has a real influence on what happens in politics, in his closest neighborhood, or his own social status.[#5] Many still are ready to perceive themselves as victims, and to see all the others, public authority including, as oppressors. Integration with Europe gives a real hope for a better civil society. This hope has been fulfilled already in many ways. Many NGO’s already collaborates intensively with their western partners, many benefited of the EU programs and subsidies, and similar process is now observed among different group of producers, entrepreneurs, and farmers. Social activity of the citizens cooperation slightly diminished in the recent years, partially, because its political motivation ceased, but growing mobility, growing economic exchange, and fast educational improvements of the youngest generation allow to hope for more democratic organization of the society in the future.

One of the misdones of Polish transformation was the spontaneous domination of politics in the public discourse. The civil reaction to the old political regimes was also extremly “political”, and may be for this reason implementation of the big idea of democracy was only partially successful in this part of Europe. Relatively deep decentralization of the public administration, systematic privatization of the public property, and considerable shift form the industrial type of economy to the economy based on knowledge and services creates new possibilities for social dialogue, but up to now this dialogue still very weak. Large part of the population is convinced that majority voting to the Parliament (instead of the present proportional system), and radical depoliticization of the public media and of the syndicates (still strong in the state factories) are necessary to make democracy working. The process of European integration creates real possibility of improvements in political life by the mean of more intensive international cooperation, not only on the level of governments, but also on the field of so called “citizens diplomacy”, international collaboration in culture, leisure, and education on the local level.

Ordinary worker was protected by the communist state in a very particular way, for full employment and social benefits belonged to the highest doctrinal principals guaranteed by the state, the unique employer and social securer. In practice, all potentially unemployed or socially handicapped persons were just employed in the state factories. Nowadays many professional groups lack of innovation, creativity, and entrepreneur virtues, because they have been never dealing with any serious requirement of market, technology, or management, and still keep in mind the absurd ideological requirements imposed by the old regime. Socio-economical transformation, commenced 14 years ago, already weakened so called homo-sovieticus (soviet-man), anyhow any further cultural and psychological improvements towards real homo economicus are possible only in full cooperation with the most developed economies.

The ongoing transformation is deep and fast and has many drawbacks. Majority of population remains confused watching TV news, but journalists, politicians, and academicians also are loosing their ground. In the early 90ies political elites tried to overcome their ignorance asking western experts and auditors for consultation, according to recommendations of the World Bank or other institutions, but even the best advices are never so effective and never can be so easily translated as the genuine social structure that grows in the place of its origin, but not without constant help of the others.

The national systems of education are still unable to introduce effectively the young into civil life and modern economy. Educational systems in the EE do not provide enough practical knowledge to the students (see results of PISA at In spite of considerable improvements in schooling and education (total number of students has grown from 0.5m in 1989 to 1.8m in 2003) nearly half of the Polish society still has only rudimental, elementary or professional training, when in Ireland, where lower educated educated the EU, it is only 23% of population. The European integration will allow young Poles to go to study abroad, and more of Polish schools and universities will be able to issue the internationally recognized diplomas.

Generally, Polish accession to the EU is enthusiastically perceived by the majority of Poles. A certain part of this fresh enthusiasm may be a product of pure populism, however larger part of it is based on pragmatic economic calculations, personal identification with the western culture, recognition to democracy and to the free market, and, what is most important, on personal experience. How this expectations will be realized in practice depends much on many factors, but certainly one of the most essential is the inner determination of Poles themselves.

[1] See Leszek Zienkowski, Ekonomiczne aspekty swobodnego przepływu pracowników w rozszerzonej Unii Europejskiej, in: Andrzej Stepniak, Swobodny przepływ pracowników w kontekście wejścia Polski do Unii Europejskiej, Warszawa, 2001, pp. 99-126.
[2] See World Values Survey, Univ. of Michigan, 2002.
[3] See (accessed October 2003).
[4] See Susan Rose-Ackerman, Corruption and Government, 1999.
[5] See Piotr Sztompka, Imponderabilia wielkiej zmiany, 1999.

Appendix. Charts and Tables

Chart 1. Would you like to move to live and work in another European country in the next five years?

Source: Mark Ambler (ed.), Managing mobility matters -- a European perspective, Prague: PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2001, p. 17.

Chart 2. Middle annual migrations calculated in five year periods from/to Poland, 1950-1999, in thousands.

Source: Teresa Iglicka, Migracje zagraniczne Polaków w drugiej połowie XX wieku, in: Andrzej Stepniak (ed.), Swobodny przepływ pracowników w kontekście wejścia Polski do Unii Europejskiej, Warszawa: UKIE, 2001, pp. 41-50, at p. 42.

Chart 3. Labour force to population ratio.

Source: From Dieter Bräuninger et al., The demographic challenge, in Deutsche Bank Research, Frankfurt Voice. Demography Special, September 6, 2002, p. 43.

Chart 4. Migration form Poland to other countries, 1989-2002, in %.

Source: Raport z wyników Narodowego Spisu Powszechnego Ludności i Mieszkań 2002, Warszawa: GUS, 2003, Chapter 3: Migracje ludnosci, p. 47, at (accessed July 2003).

Chart 5. Legal employment of Poles abroad under signed bilateral employment agreements.


Nature of agreement

Number of persons employed


Agreement on exchanges for vocational training purposes, 1990

101 in 1999*

Agreement on the employment of Polish seasonal workers in France, 1992

18.798 in the period 1992-1998
  2.721 in 1999

Agreement on the secondment of workers of Polish enterprises for the purpose of realising works contacts, 1990

c. 230.000 in the period 1991-1999


Agreement on the employment of Gastarbeiter

6.697 in the period 1991-1999*

Agreement on mediation in the employment for a limited period of Polish workers, 1999 (earlier mediation was based on a 1990 declaration)


- as seasonal workers

c. 1.138.000 in the period 1991-1999

- in border areas

c. 16.150 in the period 1991-1998

* Poland did not fill the quota opened by France.
** Poland did not fill the quota opened by Germany.
Source: Andrzej Stepniak (ed.), Enlargement of the European Union to the East. Con­sequences for prosperity and employment in Europe (Warsaw: Chancellery of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland, 2000), p. 88. Based on a paper prepared for the Office of the Committee for European Integration by Prof. Antoni Rajkiewicz.

Chart 6. Estimated emigration from Poland to the UE according to the tree possible scenarios, in thousands.


Scenario A

Scenario B

Scenario C

GDP growth in Poland
































Great Britain




































Source: Leszek Zienkowski, Ekonomiczne aspekty swobodnego przepływu pracowników w rozszerzonej Unii Europejskiej, in: Andrzej Stepniak, Swobodny przepływ pracowników w kontekście wejścia Polski do Unii Europejskiej, Warszawa: Kancelaria Prezesa Rady Ministrów, 2001, pp. 99-126, at p. 117.

Chart 7. Estimated emigration from Central and Eastern Europe to the EU.

Attention: Figures do not correspond one to another due to differences in time span and geographical coverage.


Estimated migrants


Method applied in this estimation

Loyard et al. 1992

130.000 a year to all the Western countries.

Poland, Czech Rep., Hungary, Slovakia, and other Eastern European countries

3% of the population of Eastern European countries emmigrated to the Northern Europe in 1950-1970. Loyard takes this fact as a point of reference in his evaluation.

Brueker/Franzmeyer 1997

(1) 340.000-680.000 a year to the EU, or
(2) 590.000-1.800.000 a year,
to the EU

(1) Poland, Hungary, Czech, Slovakia, Slovenia
(2) all applying countries

‘Gravitational model’, respecting different economical factors, esp. differences in the income level.

Fassmann/Hintermann 1997

721.000 as a real migration potential,
320.000 to Germany,
150.000 to Austria

Czech, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary

Gallup Institute inquiry made in these four countries.

Aintila 1998

c. 13.000 a year to Finland

Baltic countries and Poland

Evaluations based on Lundberg’s work.

Birner/Huber/Winkler 1998

(1) 24.100
(2) 21.700
regional migration to Austria in the first year of liberalisation

Czech Rep., Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary

(1) if the first year of liberalization will be 2004
(2) in the first year of liberalization will be 2010
Method based on Walterskirchen-Dietz research applied to the border regions of Austria

Hofer 1998

25.000-40.000 to Austria, each year

Poland, Hungary, Czech Rep., Slovakia, Slovenia

Recounting of the results of Brueker/Franzmeyer 1997

Lundborg et al. 1997
Lundborg 1998

628.000-1.885.000 workers (including families) to EU within 15 years;
126.000 each year;
20.000-30.000 to Sweden only

Baltic countries and Poland

As in Loyard 1992

Sujanova/Sujan 1997 (also Huber/Pichelmann 1998, Hofer 1998)

39.000 to the EU in the years 2005-2010

only Czech Rep.

Econometric model

Huber/Pichelmann 1998

140.000-200.000 to the EU

Central and East European countries

Based on Sujanova/Sujan 1997 estimation

Sik 1998 (also Huber 1999, Salt 1999)

Migration potential in the border regions


Panel research

Walterskirchen/Dietz 1998

(1) 42.000
(2) 31.600 to Austria (workers and oscillatory movement)
150.000-200.000 a year in the following 5 years
150.000 a year in longer period

Czech Rep., Poland, Hungry, Slovenia, Hungary

As in Brueker/Franzmeyer 1997:
(1) if the free movement will be introduced in 2005
(2) and if it will be introduced in 2015.

Wallace/IOM 1998

No estimations; explained reasons of migration and indicated the most preferred countries of destination.

Poland, Czech Rep., Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, Croatia, old Jugolavia, Ukraine, Bielorussia

Inquiry made in a representative group of c. 1000 person in every of their countries.

Bauer/Zimmermann 1999

c. 3.000.000 within next 10-15 years;
200.000 each year the EU

Czech Rep., Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Rumania, Bulgaria

Two scenarios: with transition periods and without them.

Fertig 1999 (also Huber 1999)

(1) 31.000-38.000 to Germany each year within nest 20 years

(1) from the countries received in the first round: Poland, Estonia, Slovenia, Czech Rep., Hungary

It is enlargement of the Halton’s (1995) model based on data given by the German Migration Office. Presupposes the middle GDP growth 2 points greater in the Central and Eastern European countries than in Western Europe.

(2) 33.000-39.000 each year

(2) from the countries received in the second round: Bulgaria, Rumania, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia

Salt et al. 1999

max. 41.000 to the EU each year

Estonia, Poland, Slovenia, Czech Rep., Hungary

Projection based on the past immigration indicators of several Western countries in 1985-1995

Orłowski/Zienkowski 1999

390.000-1.000.000 to the EU;
195.000-410.000 to Germany;
23.000-123.000 to Austria

Poland only

‘Gravitational’ model. The results depends much on presupposed economic factors.

Source: Leszek Zienkowski, ‘Ekonomiczne aspekty swobodnego przeplywu pracowników w rozszerzonej Unii Europejskiej’, in Andrzej Stepniak, Swobodny przeplyw pracowników w kontekscie wejscia Polski do Unii Europejskiej (Warszawa: Kancelaria Prezesa Rady Ministrów, 2001), pp. 99-126, at pp. 122-123. For the bibliographical references to the authors quoted above see W. Quaisser, M. Hartmann, E. Hoenekopp, M. Brandmeier, Die Osterweiterung der Europäischen Union: Konsequenz für Wohlstand und Beschäftingung in Europa, Bonn, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, 2000, p. 117.

Chart 8. Estimated migration to the EU countries from the candidate countries under the condition of the free movement of persons.

Attention: Some figures are extrapolations due to differences in time span and geographical coverage.


CC8* migrants

CC10 migrants


Flow/year over first 10 years


Flow/year over first 10 years

Brücker/Boeri 2000
(only workers)

(after 10 years)

70,000 declining to

1.4 million
(after 10 years)

120,000 declining to

Brücker/Boeri 2000
(all migrants)

1.8 million
(after 10 y.)

200,000 declining to

2.9 million
(after 10 years)

335,000 declining to

Sinn et al. 2001#

2.7 million
(after 15 years)

240,000 declining to

4.2 million
(after 15 years)

380,000 declining to

Walterskirehen/Dietz 1998†


160,000 declining to



Bauer/Zimmermann 1999‡

2.5 million
(after 15 years)




Fassmann/Hintermann 1997‡

720,000 long-term migration




Hille/Straubhaar 2000




270.000 to 790.000

Salt et al. 1999††

2.25 million
(3% of population)
(after 15 years)




* CC8 includes all candidate countries aspiring to accede in 2003: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
# Excluding Bulgaria, Slovenia and Baltic States. For the sake of comparability, figures are extrapolated to the whole EU from research results for Germany, assuming the present distribution of migrants among the EU15 remains the same.
† For the sake of comparability, figures are extrapolated to the whole EU from research results for Austria, assuming the present distribution of migrants among the EU15 remains the same.
‡ Excluding Slovakia and Baltic States.
†† Excluding Baltic States.
Source: European Commission, The Free Movement of Workers in the Context of Enlargement, Information Note: 6 March 2001, p. 34.