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Thursday, 8 March, 2001, 19:56 GMT
Prodi urges Polish reforms
Gdansk shipyard workers
Poles want full labour rights within the EU
On his first official visit to Warsaw, European Commission President Romano Prodi has been urging Poland to press ahead with difficult reforms in preparation for joining the European Union.

You have to understand the fear of Germany or Austria to be invaded by a flood of immigrants

Romano Prodi
"If you want to vote in 2004, as I'm sure you do, you have to prepare yourself as candidates," said Mr Prodi, referring to Poland's aim to become an EU member before elections to the European Parliament in 2004.

Although he was encouraging, Mr Prodi said the Poles must understand German and Austrian fears they may face a wave of immigration following Poland's accession.

Germany is calling for a seven-year transition period, during which Poles would not be allowed to work in other EU countries.

Land for labour

But the BBC's Ray Furlong says the free movement of labour is an emotive issue in Poland.

Romano Prodi with Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek
Romano Prodi with Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek
Warsaw is suspicious that by being denied the same rights as citizens of other EU states, the country will only enjoy a second-class membership.

"You have to understand the fear of Germany or Austria to be invaded by a flood of immigrants," responded Mr Prodi.

"I don't think that is true, but fear is fear and if you don't understand fear you don't understand politics."

EU members are expected to adopt a document before the end of March, to set out the conditions under which newly-admitted countries can gain access to the EU's labour market, although they are unlikely to specify how long an eventual transition would be.

But Polish authorities are demanding their own transition period - 18 years before EU citizens can purchase Polish land.

Our correspondent says everyone expects a deal to be struck in what Polish media are calling "land for labour".

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See also:

05 Oct 00 | Europe
Poland gloomy about EU membership
18 Jul 00 | Europe
Poland presses for EU action
25 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Cook urges target date for EU expansion
15 Feb 00 | Europe
EU enlargement: Second wave
15 Feb 00 | Europe
EU considers future expansion
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