Poland urges return of 1.2 million ex-pat Poles

Poland wants an estimated 1.2 million Poles who left the country to work abroad after its 2004 European Union entry to come back home.

Poland urges return of 1.2 million ex-pat Poles
Poland wants an estimated 1.2 million Poles who left the country to work abroad after its 2004 European Union entry to come back home. "Our goal is for as many people as possible to return in the near future," President Lech Kaczynski told reporters in Warsaw Wednesday.

The president announced a package of information and educational measures Wednesday designed to draw back home Polish migrants working in older EU states, primarily Britain and Ireland.

Both EU countries opened their labour markets wide to citizens from 10 EU newcomer states for the EU's historic May 1, 2004 eastward expansion.

For Poland, EU entry sparked the largest exodus in history. While official estimates peg the number of Poles who chose to leave at 1.2 million, unofficial figures soar to over 2 million. Their average age is 26.

Low salaries, high unemployment and poor opportunities for career advancement drove away workers from all walks ranging from construction workers to doctors and nurses.

The exodus has resulted in a shortage of skilled labour in Poland, with construction companies complaining they have too few hands to meet soaring demand.

Reports published recently in the Polish media suggest the majority have settled in happily to their new lives and few intend to return.

But speaking to reporters Friday, President Kaczynski quoted a study saying 20 per cent of Poles in Britain said they intended to stay, 20 per cent said they would return, while the remainder was undecided.

However, even abroad, all Polish citizens retain the right to vote and with the snap October 21 general election just around the corner politicians are campaigning hard to capture votes in the huge pool of ex-pat Poles.

Opinion surveys which show a neck-and-neck race between Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski's governing conservative-nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party and the opposition liberal Civic Platform (PO) do not take into consideration the opinions of the 1.2 million Poles entitled to vote abroad.

PO leader Donald Tusk plans to campaign in both Britain and Ireland ahead of the October 21 Polish election.

All 15 older EU states are required to open their labour markets to EU citizens from newcomer states by 2011.

It remains unclear whether this will spark a fresh labour exodus from Poland, which at nearly 39 million was by far the largest of the 10 states which joined the EU in 2004.

DPA
Last Mod: 19 Eylül 2007, 16:50
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