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Thursday, 22 August, 2002, 15:12 GMT 16:12 UK
Poles defiant over EU entry
Carrot farm in Poland
Some farmers fear joining the EU will kill their business

The European Union is to decide by the end of the year whether to admit 10 new members to the existing club of 15 - but grassroot opposition remains in some of the countries concerned, including Poland.

Just over two months ago, in the village of Wieckowice, there was a truly disgusting smell. It was impossible to escape.

Jakow, who is 10, says the smell made him nauseous and gave him a headache.


What they do say is that if Poland goes into the EU, the country will be open for exploitation

Monika is only seven. She threw up in the playground, as did several other children.

The smell was coming from one of Poland's biggest pig farms - a sprawl of huge tin sheds, in which thousands of pigs are kept, and from where, for a time, the stench fouled the air.

The smell is gone now - but the villagers in Vzkavicze are still furious.

They are upset that the pigs' manure and old bedding is being strewn around the fields, sometimes in great piles - one was maybe 50 metres long and three metres high.

No-one is blaming the European Union for all this. But what they do say is that if Poland goes into the EU, the country will be open for exploitation.

One retired farmer, who did not want to give his name, agrees.

"The real winners will be foreign investors, and it will be Polish families with small farms who lose out - unless substantial payments are made to them," he says.

"But now we are being offered only 25% of the direct payments handed out in the West. This will mean the end of the Polish agriculture."

And the pessimists say the auguries are already bad.

No nonsense

Just on Saturday, the news broke of the first confirmed case of BSE from a Polish herd.

Again, you cannot blame the EU for mad cow disease.

But there are plenty of people in Poland who say that you can blame it for the industrialisation of European agriculture - a trend which they fear Poland will be sucked into if it were to join the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Even the man who is leading Poland's negotiations for its terms of admission to the EU finds it difficult to defend the CAP.

Jan Czezinski is a mild-mannered man, but that rather increases the effect.

"There are of course areas where you have to adopt what at first glance seems a nonsensical set of solutions, like the Common Agricultural Policy," he says.

"We would probably have not gone that way, if we didn't want to become a member state."

It's a cost which, he says, is far outweighed by the benefits.

German fears

But there are vocal politicians in Poland who would disagree.

Almost as wide as he is tall, Andrzej Lepper is a farmer turned leader of the Self-Defence Party. For a time, he was speaker of the Polish Parliament.

He thinks the economic arguments for joining are false. But more, he sees membership of the EU as capitulation to an old enemy.


Poland has fought for independence for over 2,000 years. Therefore, why should we lose this sovereignty because of the EU?

Catholic militant

"Germany has always lacked territory, and they will always want to push to the East," he says.

"Nowadays, they don't have to manufacture tanks and guns. Euros and dollars are enough."

In Giovanni's Pizzeria in central Warsaw, four young people have come to repeat those fears about Germany.

They are members of a youth group allied to the ultra-Catholic League of Polish Families.

The group leader points out how flimsy Poland's borders have proved in the past.

"Poland has fought for independence for over 2,000 years. Therefore, why should we lose this sovereignty because of the EU?" he says.

For his friend, sitting in a black T-shirt carrying the slogan "The EU - You Choose; You Lose", it is much simpler.

It comes down to the European Union championing revolting liberal values.

"Because of abortion, euthanasia, homosexual relationships," he says.

Papal support

Their case has been damaged by the declaration from the Pope on Monday that Poland's place belongs in the EU.

And for the time being the opinion polls suggest about a half of Poles do support entry into the union.

But that still leaves a welter of opposition and uncertainty.

Poland's top diplomat in the EU says that nothing can be done ahead of time to counter people's irrational fears about joining.

In the first half of next year there will be a referendum on the question.

It will be a tough fight.

See also:

21 Aug 02 | Europe
22 Jul 02 | Europe
29 Jun 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
08 Apr 02 | Europe
29 Mar 02 | Europe
30 Nov 01 | Europe
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