|General background: Poland is an ancient nation
that was conceived around the middle of the 10th century.
Its golden age occurred in the 16th century. During
the following century, the strengthening of the gentry
and internal disorders weakened the nation, until an
agreement in 1772 between Russia, Prussia, and Austria
partitioned Poland. Poland regained its independence
in 1918 only to be overrun by Germany and the Soviet
Union in World War II. It became a Soviet satellite
country following the war, but one that was comparatively
tolerant and progressive. Labor turmoil in 1980 led
to the formation of the independent trade union "Solidarity"
that over time became a political force and by 1990
had swept parliamentary elections and the presidency.
A "shock therapy" program during the early
1990s enabled the country to transform its economy into
one of the most robust in Central Europe, boosting hopes
for acceptance to the EU. Poland joined the NATO alliance
Area comparative: Slightly
smaller than New Mexico.
with cold, cloudy, moderately severe winters with frequent
precipitation; mild summers with frequent showers and
Terrain: Mostly flat
plain; mountains along southern border.
Population: 38,625,478 (July 2002 est.)
Ethnic groups: Polish 97.6%, German 1.3%,
Ukrainian 0.6%, Belarusian 0.5% (1990 est.)
Religions: Roman Catholic 95% (about 75% practicing),
Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, and other 5%
Government type: Republic
Legal system: Mixture of Continental (Napoleonic)
civil law and holdover Communist legal theory; changes
being gradually introduced as part of broader democratisation
process; limited judicial review of legislative acts
although under the new constitution, the Constitutional
Tribunal ruling will become final as of October 1999;
court decisions can be appealed to the European Court
of Justice in Strasbourg.
Economic overview: Poland has steadfastly
pursued a policy of liberalizing the economy and today
stands out as one of the most successful and open
transition economies. GDP growth had been strong and
steady in 1993-2000 but fell back in 2001 with slowdowns
in domestic investment and consumption and the weakening
in the global economy. The privatisation of small
and medium state-owned companies and a liberal law
on establishing new firms have allowed for the rapid
development of a vibrant private sector. In contrast,
Poland's large agricultural sector remains handicapped
by structural problems, surplus labour, inefficient
small farms, and lack of investment. Restructuring
and privatisation of "sensitive sectors"
(e.g., coal, steel, railroads, and energy) has begun.
Structural reforms in health care, education, the
pension system, and state administration have resulted
in larger than expected fiscal pressures. Further
progress in public finance depends mainly on privatisation
of Poland's remaining state sector. The government's
determination to enter the EU as soon as possible
affects most aspects of its economic policies. Improving
Poland's outsized current account deficit and reining
in inflation are priorities. Warsaw leads the region
in foreign investment and needs a continued large
Communication/Telephone system: Underdeveloped
and outmoded system.
Places of interest: