POLAND has been an uneasy member of the European Union since it joined, in 2004. It has often found itself the only one in step on a variety of issues ranging from voting strengths in the EUs policy-making bodies to subsidies to agriculture and state industries. As by far the largest of the ten new members in 2004 Poland may have thought it should have special treatment but if so it has been disappointed.

A particularly difficult issue now faces the Polish government and the European Commission in Brussels. It concerns subsidies paid to keep the Gdansk shipyard in existence even though it is no longer competitive. The Commission has said that the yards' three docks should be reduced to one which could be modernised; the Polish government says that two docks which employ 3'000 workers must be retained.

This week Warsaw was due to to submit plans for the one-dock solution but when they were received in Brussels they were for two docks. The Commission says it will ask for repayment of subsidies of 50 million euros already paid on the understanding that Gdansk would become a one dock shipyard.

It was at the Gdansk shipyard in 1980 that Lech Walesa formed the Solidarity trade union that was so influential in the eventual decline of Soviet influence in Eastern Europe. Last week Walesa said that if the Gdansk yard cannot be saved “It would be like being unable to help your own mother.”


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