Poland in the process of standing on its own;
Poland has pursued a policy of economic liberalization since 1990 and today stands out as a success story among transition economies. Before 2009, GDP had grown about 5% annually, based on rising private consumption, a jump in corporate investment, and EU funds inflows. GDP per capita is still much below the EU average, but is similar to that of the three Baltic states. Since 2004, EU membership and access to EU structural funds have provided a major boost to the economy. Unemployment fell rapidly to 6.4% in October 2008, but climbed back to 11.8% for the year 2010, exceeding the EU average by more than 2%. In 2008 inflation reached 4.2%, more than the upper limit of the National Bank of Poland‘s target range, but fell to 2.4% in 2010 due to global economic slowdown. Poland’s economic performance could improve over the longer term if the country addresses some of the remaining deficiencies in its road and rail infrastructure and its business environment. An inefficient commercial court system, a rigid labor code, bureaucratic red tape, burdensome tax system, and persistent low-level corruption keep the private sector from performing up to its full potential. Rising demands to fund health care, education, and the state pension system caused the public sector budget deficit to rise to 7.9% of GDP in 2010. The PO/PSL coalition government, which came to power in November 2007, plans to reduce the budget deficit in 2011 and has also announced its intention to enact business-friendly reforms, increase workforce participation, reduce public sector spending growth, lower taxes, and accelerate privatization. The government, however, has moved slowly on major reforms. The legislature passed a law significantly limiting early retirement benefits. A health-care bill also passed through the legislature, but the legislature failed to overturn a presidential veto.
Education and Implications in the Baltic;On March 30, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite signed a new law on education which includes teaching history and geography, as well as the subject called civic education (about the rights and duties of citizens in a democratic country), in the Lithuanian language in the Lithuanian state-financed Slavic minority schools. It provoked a hysterical reaction from Poland, which was supported by a mild echo from the Russian Foreign Ministry as well.
Grybauskaite talked about changes in the education of ethnic minorities while visiting the town of Panevezys. She said that better knowledge of the Lithuanian language would help ethnic minorities to integrate into the labor market and start a better life. “My main motive was to help Lithuania’s ethnic minorities to feel like equal citizens, to be respected and to know our dear language well,” Grybauskaite said, adding that she can speak almost all the languages of Lithuania’s ethnic minorities, and Lithuania is the best in the EU, in terms of ensuring the educational and cultural needs of ethnic minorities.
On March 23, the Polish Foreign Ministry protested against the recent introduction of Lithuanian-language history and geography lessons in Lithuania’s Slavic schools (four percent of all Lithuania’s pupils attend Russian schools and 3.2 percent Polish schools in Lithuania).
During the period of Soviet control, Russian became the most commonly studied foreign language at all levels of schooling, but knowledge of German remained fairly common among the older generations. The Soviet Union conducted a policy of Russification by encouraging Russians and other Russian-speaking ethnic groups of U.S.S.R. to settle in the Baltic Republics. According to Soviet law, the three local languages (Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian) had the status of official languages in the three respective republics and pupils were free to choose the language of their schools or university educations. Local languages also prevailed in all regional administrations. However, as the Russian-speaking settlers from U.S.S.R. formed an ever larger part of the population and typically were neither encouraged nor motivated to learn the local language, almost everybody had to learn Russian to some extent and use it whenever communicating with Russian-speakers in daily life.
On March 24, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry answered Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, saying that Lithuania just mirrors the Polish steps of 2007 for Lithuanian schools in Poland, where the situation of ethnic minority schools is rather tragic in comparison with Lithuania. “Unfortunately, the situation of Lithuanian education in Poland is worsening each year – half of Lithuanian schools were closed there during the last 10 years,” reads the statement of the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry of March 24 about the situation in ethnic Lithuanian lands which Poland gained during its troops’ march on Vilnius in 1920.
Lithuanian pupils in Poland are forced to be translators starting from the age of seven: they study from Polish language textbooks because the Polish state does not print textbooks in Lithuanian, while the Lithuanian state does print textbooks in Russian and Polish. Gintaras Steponavicius, the Liberal Movement-delegated Lithuanian minister of education and science, stated that he would like to invite Sikorski to visit together Polish schools in Lithuania and Lithuanian schools in Poland on the same day. The comparison would not be in favor of Poland, according to Steponavicius.
Comment: “In this part of the world one countries policies affect their neighbors in the strangest ways. The old-world of a Communist State has disappeared into the sunset, and the Countries today that enjoy a free state should not be overly influenced by another!” Hotdogfish
- Poland and Lithuania, round 154 (economist.com)