Poles find their Lebensraum in the West. Drang nach abandoned East Germany is the new trend.

16 02 2008

Authrs: Jolanta Kowalewska, Adam Zadworny, Alex Kuehl
Source: Gazeta Wyborcza
Translation from Polish for this blog: MoPoPressReview

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A for pre-war 200m house with 5,500 metres square of land in a tiny German village of Hochenseldoff, several kilometres away from the Polish-German border, costed Piotr Wychadończuk 50,000 zł (nearly $25,000). ‘I can’t afford an appartment in Poland. In Szczecin metropolis this money would buy me a garage’, he says. ‘Besides, my wife and I are having twins and we need more Lebensraum’.

‘Eurosceptics from right-wing parties were threatening with the Germans coming and buying our land when we join the EU – and it’s the total opposite’, laughs Bartłomiej Sochański, a barrister from Szczecin and honorary consul of Germany. Even before the Schengen Agreement came to effect in Poland, Poles had been settling on the other side of the Oder river.

Garden fire only with Fire Department permission

‘To live in Germany you need: a letter box, a blue barrel and a current account in a German bank’, Jacek reveals basic rules of living behind the border. He’s 31, owns a two-bedroom flat in Szczecin and a stationary selling business. In spring 2007 he bought 3 hectares of German land in Radekow together with a former firefighters’ station. He’ll move in this spring with his wife, 4-year-old son and parents. A shiny letterbox is already hanging on the fence.

‘That’s the first thing you have to get’, says Jacek, ‘in order to receive official letters from institutions. ‘Thank goodness first class letters in Germany don’t need to be delivered in person, therefore I never have to go to the post office’.

– And what do you need the blue barrel for?

‘German thrift. They all use rain water for their gardens rather then a hose.

– And an account?

‘I hired an architect, and it turned out he didn’t accept cash’.

Jacek shows me around other houses purchased by the Polish. Each of them is equipped with solar power screen. Solar energy heats houses and water. Only dog houses don’t have them. And Jacek’s place. It’s a long one-storey building, which soon will be demolished to make way for Jacek’s new semi-detached.

– How will you handle the commute?

‘Oh, it’ll be easier then now. Even a taxi can drop me here after a night out in Szczecin’.

– And how do you communicate with German civil servants?

‘I don’t speak any German at all’.

– Really?

‘The lady at the Department of Housing was surprised too’.

Jacek wonders whether to register his son to a German pre-school. So far his little son practices his language skills when he meets his neighbours. It’s an elderly couple, who are pleased to have new new people in the area. They brought their home-made jam for Jacek’s family to try.

‘Friends were warning me about some German neo-fascist parties. I haven’t seen anyone like that yet’.

– What surprised you here the most?

‘That you can’t make a fire in your own garden. You need a permission from Fire Department and you need to pay somewhat 10 euro’ for that.

Roe-deer feeding classes

Joanna and Tadeusz Czapscy moved to a forrester’s cottage near Tantow, which they bought together with three hectares of land, ten roe-deer, a bat, and a pond full with crucian carp.

Their estate lies around 25km from the Szczecin city centre. In Poland Mr and Mrs Czapski lived in one of the communist blocks of flats. ‘Commute from that flat and from Tantow takes the same amount of time’, Mr Czapski explains. ‘After Schengen, I pop into my car and drive. Keine grenzen!’.

The price was right as well. 90,000 euro.

Joanna and Tadeusz’s cottage looks charming with wooden fence and hedge. Pasturage for roe-deer is visible from a distance. Deer have 2 hectars of forrest for themselves. Only during the winter they need to be fed.

‘When I saw these roe-deer I knew it’s aither this house or none for me’ recalls Joanna. ‘Previous owner told us when they eat all the nettle, it’s the time to start feeding.

What surprised them the most, was the fact that if they wanted to keep the roe-deer they had to complete a course on how to take care of wild animals.

Joanna walks around the house repeating: “bread – brot”, “buns – brotchen”, “butter – butter”. – We’ll be doing the shopping on the Polish side, as it’s still cheaper. But when we run out of something I have to know the basic words – she says.

A neighbour is busy with something behind the fence. A German man in his thirties.

‘When my lawn-mower broke down, be was here to lend me his within seconds. That’s how we met. He’s a really nic chap’.

We have level pavements

‘This house was four times cheaper, then a similar house in a Polish village. Only the pavement here is level, there is street light, and it’s generally safe’, explains Bartek Wójcik.

House bult in 1865 roku is around 200 metre sq. on a 1000 metre sq patch. 23,000 Euro. For Poles a real Bargain!

Bartek and his wife Danka are running “OFFicyna” association in Szczecin, which is renowned organiser for cultural events like Szczecin film festivals. Last year they decided to get on the property ladder. They tried to buy a flat in Szczecin, or a house in the country. Too expensive. They decided to choose Germany.

Their haouse stands on a hill, the driveway covered with cobblestone. Spruce and thuja trees grow on sides. Red barn with massive door stands graciously in the middle.They’re discovering the rules of life in the village of Schwennentz. What surprised them the most was German’s thrift. For instance in autumn the whole village prepares one joint order for heating oil. Because it’s cheaper that way.

‘Before Schengen it took us 20 minutes to commute to work in Szczecin, and since Schengen it feels as if we lived in one of the city districts’.

Little towns becoming Polish

‘Poles usually seek houses between 100 and 200 metre sq., not further than 30 kilometres from the border’, says Mariola Dadun, who together with her German husband run a real estate agency serving both sides of the border.

It is estimated that around 2000 Polish families purchased houses in Meklemburg and Brandenburg recently.

Penkun, Gartz and Loecknitz are the towns with largest Polish population – around 200 live in the latter. A Polish-German middle school has been open in Loecknitz for several years. One third of students, around 160, are Poles. A businessman from Szczecin launches a new Petrol station in Loecknitz. Polish company builds a new residential development. One of towns hotel is town-house converted by a Polish couple. Hair-dos in Locknitz are also Polish-made. A Polish businesswoman opened there a hair salon.

It is amazing how the West European borders, previously both so desired and hated, are simply disappearing. Just like that.

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If you enjoyed this post why not visit Polandian, a collaborative blog on Poland.

 





The Polish problem in Europe

20 06 2007

Source: Gazeta Wyborcza, June 18th 2007 – debate section –
Author: Jacek Pawlicki
Translation from Polish for this blog: MoPoPressReview

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Defending the square root system the Kaczynskis stand in defence of the European balance. Which the Constitutional Treaty threatens to disturb, shifting the point of gravity to Germany.

The recent EU Parliament speaker Hans Gert Pöttering’s mission on euroconstitution has failed. Also the French president Nicolas Sarkozy did not make it to convince Poland to accept the double majority. Meeting with Spain’s prime-minister José Luis Zapatero and dinner with Angela Merkel were fruitless as well. It is too late for convincing now. EU summit commences on Thursday. Jarosław Kaczyński did not declare this war for the square root to surrender in the eve of the battle.

Kaczynskis’ jump onto Europe

Regardless of how this square root row end, Poland has at least profited on it in the sense, that is has positioned herself – for better and for worse – in the most important European debate’s proper. We are not EU decorations, unlike many other countries. We do not sit quietly, although for the interest of the whole EU maybe it would have been better for us not to start a row in this case.

Unfortunately, we jumped into this most important EU debate not being entirely prepared. With a government that doesn’t have much credibility in Europe, suspected of euroscepticism, and supported by the former opponents of Poland’s EU entry. We jumped into it not having major allies, and in a bad time – when almost everyone agrees EU can not allow itself one more crisis.

That is why the whole thing with the square root reminds of the mythical uhlan charge on German tanks in 1939. With the difference, that this time the tanks stand calmly in their bases, and it are the uhlans attacking. There’s a lot of heroism in this, but also a lot of Don Kichote.

We do not know the price we will have to pay for this charge. In Berlin and Brussels one can hear voices speaking louder and louder about Poland’s fault of the crisis, isolating Poland, Europe of two velocities. European media portrait us as rowdies. Not many people want to understand the “Polish problem”.

Do not change anything please!

And the “Polish problem” has its root in the fact that we have entered European Union 50 years too late. All the furniture in European house were already placed, everyone having its room and role.

When in 2003 the institutional system of the EU was being decided upon, Poland was not yet EU’s member. Our representatives were included in the Convention that drafted the constitution, but they couldn’t do much. After months of academic discussions, then and again indeed fascinating, Convention’s chairman Valéry Giscard d’Estaing completed the draft for the future Constitution for Europe.

The draft however did not reflect the conclusions of these discussions. It refelcted the French-German agreement on the division of their influences in the EU. Some call it a plot, coined by the two most powerful countries. Although at that time the plot was advantageous – it improved EU’s institutional spine, strained with the great enlargement. The voting system proposed by Giscard d’Estaing, straightening the position of the largest countries: Germany, France, Italy and United Kingdom, survived all sorts of political storms and was included in the Treaty signed in autumn 2004 by the 25 countries, including Poland.

If it was not the French and Dutch “NO” in 2005 referenda, euroconstitution would come into effect in 2009. It’s a paradox, that the French have stopped the French concept of Europe. And yet in 2007 everyone says that it is too late for refurbishing Europe, and the system, rejected not by the Poles or Czechs but by Giscard d’Estaing nationals, has to remain unchanged.

Even those, who have the courage to publicly praise the square root system, regarded in Europe as an antic, warn that the intervention is late. – ‘I think this is a very intelligent system, and very interesting, but it was submitted far too late’ said French MEP Jean-Louis Bourlanges interviewed recently by Gazeta Wyborcza. – ‘You have to distinguish the sheer intellectual attractiveness of this idea from the political attractiveness. It is too late, because 25 of 27 [current EU members] have already agreed for a different system, that isn’t bad either’.

Natolinski / Kaczynski ?

Today, when Poland is perceived as Europe’s black sheep, lets don’t put the whole blame on the Kaczynskis. Poland had had problem with euroconstitution from the start. Lets don’t forget it were the left-wing prime-ministers Leszek Miller and Marek Belka and the Foreign Office Minister Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz who effortlessly tried to put a halt to the Giscardian order in Europe. It were the Democratic Left Alliance government’s representatives travelling around Europe to “give a chance to Nice Treaty”, and then promote the so called Jagiellonian system, which was the base for square root concept of “equal influence”.

I was never a supporter of the Law and Justice (PiS) party’s foreign policy. I have criticised it many times, and I have written many times that it doesn’t even exist. But when we speak about the pursuits to strengthen the position of Poland in the EU, we are outside the PiS policy. As the architects of equal influence system are not people from this party. It is Jacek Saryusz-Wolski of Citizens’ Platform (PO) and two negotiators associated with it: Ewa Ośniecka-Tamecka and Marek Cichocki, whom I would call “the Natolin wing”, due to their ties to the European Centre in Natolin.

Saryusz-Wolski has many times expressed his dream that Poland plays in the EU champions’ league. He called for Poland to firmly fight for her interests. When the Kaczynskis came into power, ready to wrestle with the EU, Saryusz-Wolski felt this is his moment.

Prime-minister Kaczynski adopted the “Natolin wing” logic as his own, while the wing felt the support of prime-ministers strong position in the country and his determination. Saryusz-Wolski, Ośniecka-Tamecka and Cichocki knew, that if Kaczynski gets excited to the concept of strengthening Poland’s position, he will not give up. Prime-minister is not afraid of bad press in Europe, he will not surrender to pressure, and will not pull out just to avoid accusations of being the impediment of EU development.

Lesson learned?

The EU is not a perfect creation, it’s members are not perfect either. It is true that the language of fight and accusations that the Polish leaders use, scares the supporters of old school integration. The Polish concept of using veto, also goes far beyond European standards – until now veto was treated as nuclear bomb, which you can threaten other with, but which you don’t actually use.

You can disagree with Kaczynskis logic, but it is worth to understand it. It’s based on a conviction that the EU is not an altruistic club. And that every country has to elbow its way to keep the balance in the European Community’s life.

Natolin wing believes that euroconstitution disturbs this balance, ans shifts the point of gravity to Germany. As one of the influential PiS politicians puts it, it is for the best interest of the EU that all the countries again have the feeling that they have equal influence on what is going on.

As a paradox, the Kaczynskis – the supporters of Europe of nations – due to the fear of Germany have stood in favour of the the concept aiming to prevent forming a strong directorate of member states (to which they were even invited by Sarkozy).

It is hard not to learn the lesson from the square root war. This campaign will probably convince Polish authorities to be more active in the EU, and this will, sooner or later, result in better understanding of what is the nature of the Community. And in addition, if the current authorities feel that they have influence on what is going on in Europe, holding a great co-responsibility at the same time, the Polish problem in Europe will end, like the European problem with Poland.

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If you enjoyed this post why not visit Polandian, a collaborative blog on Poland.

 





Europeans want Galileo

6 06 2007

Source: gazeta.pl portal of June the 6th 2007
Author: nik, Brussels
Translation: MoPoPressReview

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Vast majority of the EU citizens are in favour of building the new European satellite navigation system, which is set to compete with American GPS – says the recent Eurobarometer poll.

25 thousand Europeans were asked, if they would support the construction of Galileo, knowing that it would cost €2.4 billion, an amount that would allow building 400 kilometres of motorways.

63% of the EU citizens said “Yes”, in Poland it was 66%. In Sweden support for this initiative is the smallest, with 33% believing EU should not spend that much on the satellite investment.

So far the Galileo project encounters one obstacle after another. In recent months it turned out that the private companies, that were supposed to be main investors for constructing and sending satellites to the orbit, are not able to collect sufficent funds. Therefore Brussels considers engaging EU budget. During the next few months EU transport ministers will be discussing the future of the project.

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