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Poland: PR Campaign Is Being Launched To Bolster EU Bid

Poland has begun a publicity campaign to boost support among European Union citizens for its bid to join the EU. Correspondent Breffni O'Rourke looks at the aims of the campaign, and why it is considered necessary.

Prague, 20 July 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Poland is by far the biggest eastern candidate now negotiating to gain entry into the European Union. But size in this context is not an advantage, because many people in Western Europe view Poland's application with little enthusiasm. They reason Poland's entry will bring with it problems that are as big as the country itself.

A recent opinion poll carried out for EU officials shows only 34% of Germans favor Polish accession, and 39% of French. The Germans are worried most about the provision allowing for free movement of labor, fearing that they will be swamped by unemployed Poles seeking jobs in Germany. The French are probably most concerned about Poland's huge and inefficient farming sector, fearing that Poland's presence could wreck the expensive Common Agricultural Policy, of which French farmers are the main beneficiary.

In all, less than half the present EU citizens look favorably on Poland's bid. That does not make Poland unique. Public opinion in the EU is generally cool toward the other applicant countries too. For instance, only 17% of Austrians polled favored Bulgarian accession.

But Warsaw is taking such indications seriously. Its ambassador to the EU, Jan Truszcynski, has called the situation "uncomfortable" and spoken of "stereotypical fears."

As a counter, Poland is this month launching an $18 million publicity campaign to make itself more popular inside the EU. The campaign will run until 2003 -- the date when Poland hopes to become a full EU member.

The self-promotion campaign has three target groups. Number one is senior politicians and their advisers, who will be invited to visit Poland and attend seminars.

Target two is opinion-makers, like journalists, trade unionists and cultural leaders, who will be reached partly through advertisements in the professional press. The third target group is the general public, which will be exposed to an updated version of Poland's existing general promotion activities.

The campaign comes at a moment when Warsaw's negotiations with EU officials have become more tense. Talks recently started on agriculture and free movement of people after months of Polish grumbling that the EU was avoiding substantive issues.

The EU denies that it's stalling on enlargement. New rotating president France says it is politically committed to the enlargement. The fact that France may stand to lose from Polish accession has led to supposition that it is dragging its feet on enlargement -- something which EU Presidency spokesman Denis Simonneau denies. He says:

"We cannot have an enlargement which leads to a weaker European Union. We favor serious negotiations which come to grips with all issues and addresses all subjects concretely in depth. There is no desire on France's part to slow down enlargement. I deny that formally. It is our desire to reach a satisfactory treaty at the summit in Nice."

By the time of the Nice summit in December, France hopes to have agreement among members for reform of EU institutions to allow them to cope with enlargement.

At the same time, Simonneau tells RFE/RL it's up to the candidates to ensure they are meeting the terms of membership -- an indirect reference to statements from EU officials that Warsaw is making slow progress in adopting EU-compatible laws.

Simonneau says during its presidency, France wants to develop a total overview of how each candidate country is adapting the EU's body of rules. He says:

"We favor arriving at Nice with the most precise and detailed vision possible of the situation in each candidate country. Without that one puts at risk the serious subjects which must be negotiated between us. That way we can see how each candidate is doing in adopting the body of rules ... and in what respect they are speeding up implementing rules, or are behind in implementation."

Simonneau says the EU does not yet have that precise overview.