Poland marks 15 years in European Union

Poland is celebrating on Wednesday its 15-year membership in the European Union (EU) since the country joined the regional bloc in 2004 in what was the largest enlargement wave of the union so far.

Ten countries joined the EU in 2004: Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Cyprus, Malta and Slovenia. In 2007, Romania and Bulgaria entered the EU as well, followed by Croatia in 2013.

A series of events are taking place in Poland to mark the anniversary, including a government-sponsored massive concert at Warsaw’s National Stadium on Tuesday night, attended by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

On Wednesday, the Warsaw municipality is hosting a ‘European festival’ in the city center. There are activities for kids, and a 28-meter table where regional Polish products are served and a concert where Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, the official anthem of the European Union, is played.

In the run-up to elections for the European Parliament this month, the Polish ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) has intensified efforts to present itself as pro-European despite its numerous conflicts with Brussels on issues ranging from the rule of law to taking in refugees.

“Membership of the EU is a requirement of Polish patriotism,” said PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski during a party conference April 27.

However, PiS has also been arguing that the crisis-ridden Union needs reform, especially to restore more power to national capitals.

“For us, for me, the European Union is above all the European living standards, the European purchasing power, the individual freedom, the economic freedom, but also equality within the European Union, for which we are fighting very strongly and over which we sometimes spar with our European partners,” Prime Minister Morawiecki said in an interview with portal Wirtualna Polska on Wednesday.

In parallel to the celebrations of EU accession, Poland is hosting on Wednesday a special summit of leaders of the countries which joined the EU since 2004.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis and Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila are some of the leaders attending the “Together for Europe” summit.

“We want to point out that the countries which entered the EU in 2004 have offered a lot to Europe,” Polish Secretary of State for European Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Konrad Szymanski, said on Wednesday, while speaking to the Polish Press Agency (PAP) before the summit.

“These countries are not simply beneficiaries of European funds – that’s a superficial, even populistic perspective. These countries brought a lot to Europe,” Szymanski said.