The Republic of Poland has a population of approximately 38 million (2016). Poland is bordered by Germany to the West; the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic to the South; Ukraine and Belarus to the East; and Lithuania and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad to the North. The principal population centres are Warsaw, Krakow, Wroclaw, Lodz and Poznan. Poland celebrates its Constitution Day on 3 May.
Poland is a parliamentary democracy. Under the Polish Constitution, the legislative authority of the Republic is vested in the Parliament, composed of the Sejm (lower house, 460 members) and the Senate (upper house, 100 members). Executive authority is shared between the President and Prime Minister (appointed by the President).
The President is elected by popular vote for a maximum of two five-year terms and is Head of State, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and represents Poland in the international arena. The President enjoys limited executive powers: the right to veto legislation, although this veto may be overridden by a three-fifths majority vote in the Sejm, the right to dissolve parliament if no stable majority exists, and the right of pardon. The President appoints the Prime Minister and members of the government, Tribunal and Supreme courts judges, and members of the Monetary and Security Councils.
The most recent presidential elections were held on 24 May 2015 and were won by Andrzej Duda from the Law and Justice party with 51.5 per cent support from voters. Mr Duda defeated incumbent Bronislaw Komorowski who was backed by the then governing Civic Platform.
Parliamentary elections were last held on 25 October 2015. Law and Justice Party won 235 seats in the Lower House with 37.6 per cent of the vote, unseating the incumbent governing coalition of Civic Platform (PO) and the Polish People's Party. PO won 138 seats with 24.1 per cent of the vote and now forms the main opposition. The current Prime Minister, Mr Mateusz Morawiecki, took on his role in December 2017, replacing Beata Szydlo.
Poland is a member of numerous international organisations including: the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United Nations (UN), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Poland is a member of the Visegrad Four, with the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. The grouping aims to promote closer cooperation between these four central European countries to further their European integration. All four countries joined the European Union (EU) in May 2004. Poland joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1999.
Poland is also a member of the Three Seas Initiative that includes the 12 EU member states located between the Baltic, Black and Adriatic Seas.
Poland has enjoyed steady economic growth in recent years: 3.9 per cent in 2015, 2.6 per cent in 2016 and 3.8 per cent in 2017. Unemployment has dropped from 10.1 per cent in 2012 to 4.8 per cent in 2017. Membership of the EU and access to EU structural funds has provided a major boost to the economy since 2004. Poland is the largest coal producer in the EU.
Australia maintains an Embassy in Warsaw. Poland is represented in Australia by the Polish Embassy in Canberra. Poland has also established a Consulate General in New South Wales and Consulates in Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and the Northern Territory.
Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, visited Poland in March 2014 where she signed a bilateral work and holiday visa arrangement with her then Polish counterpart, Mr Radosław Sikorski, who had visited Australia in May 2013. Then Foreign Minister Dr Witold Waszczykowski visited Australia in May 2017. Other high level Australian visits to Poland include: Minister for Defence Industry, the Hon Christopher Pyne, in October 2017; then Minister for the Environment, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, in January 2015; then Assistant Treasurer, the Hon Josh Frydenberg MP, in January 2015; and then Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Stephen Smith MP, in February 2011 and October 2009.
In 2012, the Australian Government made a contribution of A$500,000 to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Fund. The funds will assist with essential preservation works at the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial site in Poland.
Bilateral agreements between Australia and Poland include: Investment and Promotion and Protection Agreement (1991); Double Taxation Agreement (1991); Extradition Treaty (1999); Air Services Agreement (2005); a Joint Communiqué on Cooperation in Environmental Technologies, Goods and Services (2006); a Social Security Agreement (2010); and a Memorandum of Understanding on a bilateral Work and Holiday Maker Visa Arrangement, which entered into force in 2014.
The Polish community in Australia plays an important and active role in the overall relationship. According to 2011census figures, over 180,000 people of Polish ancestry live in Australia. The Polish community is active in promoting people-to-people contact and commercial and academic ties through a number of community organisations, bilateral business councils and institutes. Several famous Australian landmarks, including Mt Kosciuszko and the Strzelecki Mountain range in Victoria, were named by (or in honour of) Polish explorer, Paul Edmund Strzelecki.
Bilateral economic and trade relationship
Poland is a growing market for Australia's commercial interests. In 2016-17, Australia's two-way goods and services trade with Poland was valued at $1.7 billion, dominated by merchandise imports from Poland. Total merchandise imports from Poland for the same period were $982 million, compared with Australian exports to Poland of $482 million. The services trading relationship was more balanced - imports from Poland were $100 million in 2016-17, compared to Australian services exports of $123 million. Australia's major exports were coal ($309m), copper ores and concentrates ($56m) and other ores and concentrates ($48m). Australian investment in Poland has grown substantially over the last few years, to $946 million in 2016. Polish investment in Australia is relatively small.
For advice on doing business in Poland, see Austrade's website.