Poland. According to
Countryaah official website, the government's efforts to adapt Poland's
economy to future EU membership led to repeated protests
during the year from mainly farmers. The farmers' so-called
Self-Defense Group set up roadblocks in protest of low
prices for agricultural products and with demands for
government subsidies. It led, among other things. to
hundreds of police and civilians injured in clashes in
August. The government bought up surplus production and
increased import duties on a range of foods, which in turn
caused protests from the EU. But the question of heightened
tariff created disagreement within the ruling coalition.
In September, about 35,000 farmers, miners and others
demonstrated. in Warsaw against reforms in health care,
pension systems and education. The outdated Polish school
system underwent a thorough reform in the autumn term, and
teachers protested against extra work and low wages. Health
care employees also conducted a series of strikes with
demands for higher wages and more resources for care.
Economic growth slowed sharply at the beginning of the
year and then regained momentum. For the whole year,
forecasts were between 2.5 and 3.7%. But foreign trade went
into deficit. The Polish industry had difficulty competing
internationally, even in traditional markets such as the
Russian Federation and the CIS countries. The government
decided during the year to offer parts of the state airline
LOT for sale on the international market.
Despite the government's efforts with EU adaptation -
i.a. during the autumn a tax reform was run during the
battle by Parliament - the EU was not happy with the pace.
In November, the EU Commissioner for Enlargement expressed
its doubts that until 2003 - when Poland hopes to become an
EU member - the Polish Parliament would be able to address
the thousands of pages of EU law that remain.
In March Poland joined the NATO military alliance
together with the Czech Republic and Hungary. Foreign
Minister Bronislaw Geremek expressed the hope that Poland
will be able to contribute to good relations between NATO
and the Russian Federation, which opposed Polish NATO
membership. But shortly thereafter, NATO began bombing
Yugoslavia, weakening relations with both the Russian
Federation and Belarus, Poland's neighbor to the east.
Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek was accused at the beginning
of the year of cooperating with the security services during
the communist era. In May, the Ombudsman declared that there
was no basis for the information, a message that opposition
politicians described as "outrageous".
In June, the Polish-born pope, John Paul II, visited his
former homeland for 13 days. The Polish-Swedish relations
flourished during the year through the Swedish initiative
"Poland in focus 1999". The Polish year was aimed, inter
alia, at for increased trade, strengthened regional
cooperation and support for Poland's EU integration,
including in the environmental field. Polish Prime Minister
Jerzy Buzek visited Sweden in February, and Prime Minister
Göran Persson made three visits to Poland.