Guests invited by POLANZ, the Polish-NZ Business Association gathered on the 9th of May at the Europe House in Auckland to celebrate Europe Day and the 15th anniversary of the accession of 10 countries, including Poland, to the European Union. The speeches by the Polish Ambassador, Deputy Ambassador of the EU Delegation to NZ, the NZ-EU Business Council President, and Honorary Consuls of Lithuania and Latvia were all focusing on the benefits the new members got from the EU. On the other hand, all speakers indicated also that accepting new members, the EU became stronger and safer and enlarged its common market.
The Ambassador from the Republic of Poland Zbigniew Gniatkowski in conclusion of his presentation he said:
“Within fifteen years, Poland has made tremendous progress, which it largely owes to the Poles’ entrepreneurship and the inflow of funds under the EU Cohesion Policy. Statistics and figures do not always directly reflect practical changes in people’s lives, such as travel rights, abolished roaming charges, a cleaner environment, safe foods and the ability to legally work and study in other countries. In the near future, we may even catch up with the most developed EU countries in living standards, something that sustaining economic growth of 5% will help to achieve.
That Poland has benefited in many ways from its membership in the EU is well-grounded in public awareness. The EU enjoys high approval rates amongst practically all social and age groups, irrespective of political views and sympathies. Poles not only consider themselves Europeans, but show more confidence in the EU than many in other countries.
We advocate a strong Union: one that enjoys the support of its constituent states and nations; a Union that fosters economic growth and the prosperity of its societies; a Union that helps to ensure equal living standards for the citizens of all member states; a Union that taps into the potential of the common market and respects all the four freedoms: the free movement of goods, capital, persons, and services.
There is much to celebrate in this anniversary year about Poland’s road to freedom and European integration. Fifteen years of EU membership have coincided with remarkable economic success. The numbers speak for themselves: Poland’s GDP has grown by nearly 100%; inflation has dropped below 2%; unemployment fell to 5.7% in 2018; and cumulative foreign direct investments reached EUR 200 billion in 2018.
Integration has also brought benefits to our partners. Macroeconomic data shows that the “Big Bang” enlargement of 2004 had a positive impact on most EU-15 economies. The biggest winners were those who boosted trade with our region and opened their labour markets to the new members. Indeed, all EU member states – both those acceding in 2004 and those already in the Union – gained most by tapping into the potential offered by the internal market, especially the free movement of goods and people, while numerous companies from the EU-15 took part in projects implemented in the EU-12 with the use of Cohesion funds. Common European security has also been bolstered.
Poland joined the European Union 15 years ago full of hope, with some uncertainties about how membership would affect its economy and political position. Since then Poland has built a strong position for itself in NATO and the EU, with a reputation as a responsible member of these organizations as well as within the UN family. This occurred because of economic progress, political stability and firm support for European integration among Poles. Time has shown that the decision to anchor Poland firmly in Euro-Atlantic structures was right”
It was a very well prepared evening attended by representatives of the business organizations, students and lecturers from the University of Auckland, members of the Auckland Branch of the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs, members of the Auckland Consular Corps and representative of the NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Robert Holubicki, the President of POLANZ, who was MC for the night, had acknowledged support in organizing the event by the Polish Embassy, NZ-EU Business Council, NZ-Czech Republic Business Association and Honorary Consuls of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
We were also glad to see representative of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in NZ.