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Readying Poland for EU Membership Requires More Work, admits Kwasniewski - 2003-11-05

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski says the European Commission report finding his country unprepared for membership in the European Union next year should serve as a wake-up call for his government.

The EU report concludes Poland is so far behind in preparations for membership in the European Union that its accession next May might have to be delayed.

The Commission says that one of the most worrying aspects is Poland's failure to upgrade its food safety controls and hygiene standards to EU levels.

President Kwasniewski, speaking to VOA in an interview, admitted his country of nearly 40 million people has more difficulties preparing for membership than the other nine candidate countries.

"We are the biggest country among the new members," said the Polish leader. "I think that the scale of the problems is much bigger than the other countries. We have to work. It is very important to be very good prepared."

Mr. Kwasniewski pledged that, as head of state, he will do his best to bring Poland up to date by next May, when the 10 new member countries, mostly from the former Communist bloc, are scheduled to join.

"I think that is the task of the Polish government next month to eliminate all these weaknesses," he said. I am sure that at the end of the day, before the first of May, Poland will be well prepared to be a full member of the European Union. Because that is in our interest; it is not the interest of the European Union only."

Poland is not the only country criticized in the Commission report. Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, for instance, also were censured for failing to reform their steel industry and agriculture.