For the past 50 years the world has been a witness to a steady globalization process. That process stimulates not only economy but also cultural and social development. The European integration is a clear example of such modern change.
From past accessions to the EU of different countries we have learnt that it is definitely a crucial step for future development for many countries. Rapid economic development, in terms of trade increase, foreign investment increase or structural funds that are provided, is a positive, and quite sudden outcome of joining the EU. That can be possible thanks to many requirements that must be met before successful incorporation to the community. Adjustment of laws, structural changes in industries, openness to the world, fiscal consolidation, construction of infrastructure all are long-term advantages.
Poland's accession to the European Union (EU) can be seen as a great milestone in any aspect of country's development. Joining the EU allowed Poland to revitalize its political and economic relations with the international community. Accession to the EU of any country usually provides a range of new opportunities: accelerates economic development, increase in gross domestic product, improvement of competitiveness of economy, just to name few of them.
Poland's accession to the EU took place on 1 May 2004. On the same day the other nine countries obtained full-right membership. It was the biggest enlargement of the Union in its history. It was also a start of a new chapter for the whole continent. The year 2004 EU enlargement was not an easy task for both EU and candidate countries. The decision to join the EU was not a simple decision made by governments. There was a need for extended information for citizens. From the very beginning the support for accession to the EU in Poland was huge and its rate achieved approximately 70% of whole population which proves that although there are costs of accession the majority of Poles see their country to be fully committed to the values and interests shared through membership.
Poland sees the first benefits of its accession. From 2006 until now there is a continuous economic growth which reached 6,5% at the end of 2007. There is also a steady trend in decreasing unemployment rate and rising household disposable income which resulted in significant growth in consumption. At the end of 2003 (just right before joining the EU) the unemployment rate reached 20%, average salary stood at the level of EUR 537 and inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI) was EUR 3.7 billion. After four years of membership at the end of 2007 all above mentioned indicators changed significantly. Unemployment rate declined to 11.4%, average salary rose to EUR 850 and FDI reached level of EUR 12.8 billion. All these positive information could be related among other reasons to direct support and utilization of pre-accession and structural funds granted to Poland. In 2007 transfers from EU budget exceeded EUR 8 billion which accounted for over 2% of Poland's GDP. These funds have a direct impact on Poland's economy and development. Poland has already gained a lot thanks to the accession to the EU, but the biggest benefits are actually still ahead of the country, as comparing to Spain's achievements. Since both countries share some common historical background and similar economic situation in the accession process (at some stages) the benefits and costs would be also similar. Indeed, comparison proves that to be true. Of course a simple comparison between Poland and Spain economic and social situation and developments do not show the whole complexity of the ongoing integration processes. But according to statistics and surveys launched by the European Commission and member-countries the overall situation at some point of continuous development of particular country can be described.
Joining the EU usually stimulates a dynamic increase in GDP of new countries. That was the case in Greece, Spain, Portugal and so is in Poland. Since joining the EU in 2004 Poland's GDP ratio is well above EU's and world's average level which represents the boost to the economy which was also stimulated by the EU accession. The same situation experienced Spain which GDP annual growth in the years 1986 - 1990 was 5% on average.
A several adjustments to foreign trade and foreign direct investments regulations were done in Poland as required by the EU. Thanks to new policies aimed at more freely external trade along with favorable policies for foreign investments helped Poland to significantly increase its exports and imports. Also in case of Spain the joining of the single European market allowed greatly to develop local economy.
Unemployment is a serious problem which cannot be solved within the EU for many years. Bearing in mind the Spain's experience it was expected that unemployment rate in Poland would decrease after accession. Indeed it was a case, but it should be pointed out that not only the accession to the EU helped Poland but also favorable situation in the global economy which experienced boom since the year 2003.