This Time The Joke Is Not On Poland

Poland Flag

Photo: Sean Gallup / Getty

Most people have heardsome variant of the joke – “What do you do if a Pole throws a grenade at you? Pull the pin and throw it back!” Actually, the much more disparaging term “Polack” is typically used, and these jokes were unfortunately spread by Nazi Germany as a part of its ruthless propaganda campaign against those it oppressed in occupied countries.Well, the Polish people may be the butt of a lot of ill-conceived American jokes, but at least they have been wise enough not to jump aboard a sinking [or sunk] ship.

According to a recent poll, about 60% of the Polish people are now against joining the neo-feudal European Monetary Union, despite the constant propaganda campaign that has been waged over the last decade, telling them that it’s in their best interest. These high levels of public opposition have forced Polish politicians to continue pushing out plans of joining the currency union into the future. The Guardian reports on the results of latest poll out of Poland’s Public Opinion Research centre (CBOS).

Guardian Live Blog

CBOS, a polling firm, found that the ongoing eurozone crisis means 60% of people want to retain the zloty. It explained that:

“A possible, out-of-control collapse of the euro zone is treated by Poles as a serious threat that could lead to a recession and an economic crisis in the European Union, and in turn even to its disintegration.

Doubts concerning the common currency project are translating into falling acceptance for introducing the euro in Poland.”

According to Reuters, support for the euro peaked within Poland in 2002, and has been sliding since the financial crisis began.

Keeping out of the euro worked well for Poland. The zloty dropped in value once the global downturn began, and this devaluation helped the country return to growth – expanding by around 4% in 2011.

It certainly helps that Poland has been able to out-perform many of its European neighbours since the onset of the global financial crisis through relative currency devaluation. However, the fact that support for adopting the common currency peaked in 2002 reveals a deeper scepticism. Perhaps it’s because Poland is well aware of the pitfalls of being in a bureaucratic and sclerotic economic union that is destined to break up.

Poland has been one of the few countries to consistently act on that awareness and refuse to fall into the same trap. Indeed, a common market and currency is no less destructive than a Communist command economy emanating from Moscow. Poland joined the EU in 2004, but never took the leap of faith into the Eurozone. While other Eastern European countries such as Hungary and Romania have also remained out of the EMU, they have still taken out excessive loans denominated in euros.

Many Polish borrowers have also taken out loans denominated in a foreign currency, namely Swiss Francs, but last year the President enacted legislation to help those mortgagers mitigate the soaring cost of servicing that debt. Obviously, countries like Poland are by no means immune to the Euro crisis or the GFC in general, but their people do realise that nothing good will come of tying themselves to the EU even further. And, at a time when most EU countries are doing exactly that, it’s a pretty important realisation to have.

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