Friday, May 21, 2004

Poland in the bad books

She hasn’t been in the EU a full month yet and already Poland is in the EU’s bad books – and not because of the way it wrecked the constitutional summit. On two counts, its government is under investigation for breaking Single Market rules.

The first relates to the restructuring of the steel company Huta Czestochowa SA, where the commission has its "doubts" that this was being "achieved without state aid." Huta is Poland's second biggest steel producer but has been plagued by financial difficulties and the Polish government is planning financial measures to restore the company. It is suspected of illegally writing off some of the company’s debts.

The other investigation concerns the government’s plans to sell 300,000 tons of wheat from internal security stocks to cut high grain prices. This breaches EU rules that require sales of more than 2,000 tons of grain from public stores to be agreed by the cereals management committee.

Poland is the first of the new accession states to receive such treatment from the commission, but there will undoubtedly be many more. The peoples of Central and Eastern Europe member states are fast getting a reality check on the ways of the EU. It can hardly add to the popularity of the organisation they have just joined.

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