A blog by an American expatriate living in the heart of New Europe

"It's a lateral transfer" -- George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States
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Sunday, February 27, 2005

EU Official Suggests Ukraine May Join Bloc by 2015

The Moscow Times

BRUSSELS -- A senior European Union official predicted Friday the EU will expand rapidly in the next decade, with Turkey and possibly Ukraine joining the bloc around 2015.

In a speech prepared for a seminar at Sussex University in England, Regional Aid Commissioner Danuta Huebner said Croatia might catch up with Bulgaria and Romania to enter the 25-nation EU in 2007.

"But of course a massive change will occur as the union grows to absorb Turkey and possibly Ukraine by around 2015," Huebner said in the prepared remarks. "These two countries would add around 125 million citizens to the union, bringing the total population to around 635 million or 40 percent more than today."

The European Commission officially says Ukraine's membership in not on the agenda. But some member states such as Huebner's native Poland believe membership for Ukraine should be put on the agenda after pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko was elected president in December. Yushchenko told the European Parliament earlier in the week that Ukraine wants to start EU entry talks in 2007.


Blogger Gustav said...

These are very controversial statements. Most richer states want to slam on the expansion breaks, as new members benefit "at the expense of" older members. It has now been thrown into question whether Romania will be able to join as scheduled in 2007 -- and Huebner's saying Croatia could join in? Something's fishy.

There is the Polish desire to bring in its former little brothers the prosperity EU membership brings. Not to mention that Poland can reap tremendous economic benefits from having these countries in the Union. Poles know those languages and markets better than "old Europe", and has the capital too. Polish banks are already flooding into Ukraine.

But Huebner (pronounced in Polish "HEEB-ner") has also recently chided the German and French for having "stiff" economies. That was in response to those countries' calls for Poland to raise its corporate tax rate.

And ruin this boom? Fat chance.

2/27/2005 11:21:00 PM  

Blogger Redneck Texan said...

Is Warsaw a temporary or permanent station Gus. Is your standard of living as high there as it would be in Michigan?

None of my business would be an acceptable answer, but I am just personally curious that if your Polish friend were to get pregnant would you arrange for an American birth?

Or could your child get American citizenship without being born here.

I am pretty illiterate about these things, and quite a few others as well.

3/01/2005 06:11:00 AM  

Blogger Gustav said...

Caution!!! Long Response!!!As far as I can tell, every station in my tram-ride of life is temporary. For now, I've stopped here, and I'll move on when the conductor calls me.

Is the standard of living better? That's a tough question,and it depends on how you measure the "standard of living". Poland, and Warsaw, have their advantages and disadvantages.

-- It's more difficult here to get things that you need – there's much more bureaucracy, fewer choices in the shops, the latest technology isn't as immediately available.

The country is generally less developed: There are no laundromats, some shops still don't take credit/debit cards, and good luck finding a computer in a government office.

As an expat, there's also the matter of arranging the work permit and residence card, not to mention the language barrier. Only those under thirty or those working in international business or tourism speak English well. It's also difficult to get used to the "Polish character". Pessimism is the national pastime.

And then there's the old communist buildings. Grey, rectangular, ubiquitous.

The roads in Poland as a whole are in ruins and extremely dangerous. There are only one or two short "highways" in the American sense. All the rest are one-and-a-half lane speeding deathtraps with terrible maintenance. From Warsaw, it takes an hour longer to get to Krakow by car than by train. The only place I've driven roads in as bad a shape as these is in Metro Detroit. Trust me, that's bad.

I don't have the insurance coverage from my employer that I could get for the same job in the States. I have no retirement or 401k plan. I pay into the Social Security system here, but am not covered by it.

The average salary in Poland is $830 per month.

So there are some things here that make life here a bit more difficult than in the US, but there is an up side.

The economy is doing much better here than in Michigan, where Bush's culture of ownership has meant only that people own more and more debt. There are far more opportunities here. Last year the government cut the deficit more than expected, and growth is between 5% and 6%. Poland is one of the biggest exporters in the EU, and FDI reached $7 billion last year. It should significantly top that this year. And the year after that ...

There are now three American-style shopping malls within 10 minutes by car from me. There will soon be another - this one within walking distance - in the very center of town, just behind the main train station and next to the Palace of Culture and Science (Stalin’s "gift" to the people of Poland. It’s the building in the picture with the caption "The Heart of New Europe").

When I got here 3 1/2 years ago, there was just one.

Which brings me back to the architecture. Gigantic concrete and glass temples to capitalism are popping up across from those drab communist appartment blocks. It gives Warsaw a schizophrenic look, which fits its character – probably my favorite thing about the city.

Development is lower than in the States, but it's certainly not in the stone age. I've experienced hospitals and dentist offices here, and they're up to American standards. When visitors come here for the first time, they’re generally surprised at how modern the city is.

Though I make about a third of what I would make in the States, I have enough money. Food for example, is much cheaper, as is rent (the biggest two expenses). Cars, designer clothes and CDs are about the same price as in the states. Gasoline and electronics are more expensive.

The beer is better. The coffee is better. Both are cheaper. So are, mercifully, books and movie tickets.

As to the child/citizenship question: I’d like my child to be born in the states. If my child is born here, he/she is still an American citizen, as long as I notify the proper authorities. But there’s that nasty clause in the Constitution that says that only "natural born" citizens can become President of the United States.

Doesn’t every American father want to tell his child: "In this country you can become anything you want, even President!"?

Kidding aside, I would rather raise a child in the States. I’m opposed to the education system here, which forces long hours of memorization and offers very little in practical application. I prefer the American university system.

I believe sports are an important part of a child’s upbringing, but the sports culture here is nigh invisible, and participation in sports is not encouraged. I wouldn’t know where to get tickets to a basketball game, or where they would play it. There are occasional soccer games. Full of hooligans. The sports heroes are Otylia ("o-TILL-ya") Jędrzejczak ("yen-JAY-chack"), who won a gold medal in the 200m butterfly in Athens, and Adam Małysz ("MA-wish") a ski-jumper.

Then again, there are lots worse places to bring up a child than in Poland.

Things are changing here very rapidly. In 5 years the situation could be much different. Poland's economy is growing while the US's is stagnating, so I guess I'll have to make that decision when the time comes.

Or in other words, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

3/02/2005 12:07:00 AM  

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