Poland country brief
Poland, also called the Republic of Poland, has a population of approximately 38.4 million (2012), making it the sixth largest European Union member. 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, the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, and the Baltic Sea to the North. The principal centres of population are Warsaw, Krakow, Wroclaw, Lodz and Poznan.
Poland celebrates its National Day on 3 May.
Under the Polish Constitution, the legislative authority of the Republic is vested in the Parliament, composed of the Sejm (lower house of parliament, 460 members) and the Senate (upper house, 100 members). Executive authority is shared between the President and Prime Minister (appointed by the President). Three new tiers of regionally-based local administration were introduced in 1999: 16 voivodships (provinces), 308 poviats (counties; and 65 cities with the legal status of a poviat), and over 2000 gminas (municipalities).
The President is elected by popular vote for a maximum of two 5-year terms and is Head of State, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and represents Poland in the international arena. The President has the right to veto legislation, although this veto may be overridden by a three-fifths majority vote in the Sejm.
The most recent Presidential elections were held on 4 July 2010 and were won by Bronislaw Komorowski (former Speaker of the Sejm). Presidential elections were held early due to the tragic death on 10 April 2010 of former President Lech Kaczynski, who died in a plane crash in Russia on his way to a commemoration of the Katyn massacre, along with many high-ranking Polish civilian and military officials and prominent members of the Polish community. Komorowski defeated Jaroslaw Kaczynski, twin brother of the deceased Lech Kaczynski, winning 53 per cent support from voters. Komorowski is from the governing Civic Platform party.
Elections for the Sejm were last held on 9 October 2011. Civic Platform (PO) won 207 seats (or 39.2 per cent of the vote), and governs in coalition with a junior partner, the Polish People's Party (PSL), which won 28 seats (or 8.4 per cent of the vote). Other strong performances included the Law and Justice party (PiS) (136 seats or 29.9 per cent) and Palikot's Movement (RP) (40 seats or 10 per cent). The next elections for the Sejm will be held by October 2015. The last Senate elections were held on 9 October 2011. Civic Platform won a clear majority of 63 seats, followed by the Law and Justice party (PiS) claiming 29 seats. The next Senate elections will be held by October 2015.
Poland was a founding member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 1995 and became a member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OSCE) in 1996, following the success of a radical economic reform program. It joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in 1999, and, following finalisation of negotiations with the European Union (EU) in December 2002, Poland joined the EU in May 2004.
Poland was the only country in the European Union (EU) to avoid recession as a result of the 2008-09 global financial crisis. Its economy grew by 1.7 per cent in 2009, with stronger growth recorded in 2010 (3.9 per cent) and 2011 (4.4 per cent). The OECD predicts growth will slow to around 3 per cent over the next two years, due to a combination of weaker external demand, Eurozone uncertainty, ongoing fiscal consolidation, the deceleration of public investment following the 2012 football championships, and the levelling off of EU funds in 2013.Inflation in 2011 was 4.2 per cent, up from 2.6 per cent in 2010.Inflation is 2012 is predicted to fall to 3.9 per cent. Poland is one of the few emerging economies to still enjoy stable credit ratings.
Australia maintains an Embassy in Warsaw. Visa and migration issues are handled by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship's office in Warsaw. Austrade is also represented in the Australian 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.
Former Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Stephen Smith MP, visited Poland in October 2009. During his visit, Mr Smith and Poland's Minister for Labour, Jolanta Fedak, signed the Australia-Poland Social Security Agreement. The Hon Alan Griffin MP, then Minister for Veterans' Affairs, visited Poland in September 2009 to represent Australia at the 75th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II. The former Minister for Defence, the Hon Joel Fitzgibbon MP, also visited Poland in February 2009 to participate in NATO talks on Afghanistan hosted by Poland. Former Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator the Hon Penny Wong, visited Poland in December 2008 to lead the Australian delegation to United Nations Climate Change negotiations.
In July 2012, the Australian Government announced it had made a contribution of A$500,000 to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Fund. The funds will assist withessential 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); and a Social Security Agreement (2010).
The Polish community in Australia plays an important and active role in the overall relationship. According to 2011 census figures, about 170,000 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, were named by Polish explorer, Paul Edmond Strzelecki.
Bilateral economic and trade relationship
Poland has growing potential for Australia's commercial interests. Direct merchandise exports to Poland in 2011were around A$28 million, while imports from Poland were worth A$383million. Australia's major export items to Poland in 2011were medicaments (including veterinary) (around A$7 million), alcoholic beverages (A$3 million) and fruit and nuts (A$1.8 million). Australia's major imports from Poland included medicaments (including veterinary) (A$41 million), telecom equipment and parts (A$27million), and furniture, mattresses and cushions (A$28million).
In the 2010-11 program year, student visas were issued to 1,082 Polish nationals studying in education institutions in Australia, many in vocational training and English language courses. Hospitality, tourism, business and IT are also popular. Growing demand for post-graduate studies and vocational courses should ensure continued interest in Australian education and training services. Increased collaboration on science and technology and joint research initiatives between institutions is a priority for Austrade's development of this sector. Austrade works closely with the education sector to build sustainable growth and branding for Australian education through missions, seminars and targeted media coverage.
The total value of Australian investment stock in Poland by the end of 2011 was estimated at A$875 million. The number of major Australian investors in Poland has risen dramatically in recent years. Austrade reports there are increasing opportunities in Poland for Australian wine, foodstuffs, meat, sheepskins, education, IT, environmental and waste-management technologies.
For advice on doing business in Poland, see Austrade's website.
Last updated September 2012