(Rzeczpospolita Polska). Central European State (312,683 km²). Capital: Warsaw. Administrative division: voivodships (16). Population: 38,135,876 (2008 estimate). Language: Polish (official), Belarusian, German, Ukrainian. Religion: Catholics 88.8%, non-religious / atheists 8.9%, Orthodox 1.3%, Protestants 0.4%, others 0.6%. Monetary unit: złoty (100 groszy). Human Development Index: 0.875 (39th place). Borders: the Baltic Sea (N), Russia and Lithuania (NE), Belorussia and Ukraine (E), Slovakia and Czech Republic (S), Germany (W). Member of: Council of Europe, EBRD, NATO, OCDE, UN, OSCE, EU and WTO.
After the difficult phase of the 2001-2003 three-year period, where there was a general slowdown, the country’s economy regained momentum thanks also to the development of small and medium-sized enterprises, the increase in internal consumption and the increase in both of foreign investments and exports. At the beginning of the third millennium, the country therefore showed that it had achieved a good level of economic growth (in 2008 the GDP was equal to 525,735 mln US $), also managing to put inflation under control (4, 2% in 2008) and to reduce both the unemployment rate and the external debt. This favorable economic situation has allowed the country to officially join the European Union on 1 May 2004.
ECONOMY: AGRICULTURE, LIVESTOCK AND FISHING
In spite of the solicitations and the government subsidies aimed at the establishment of cooperatives and state farms, the Polish peasants remained for the most part small owners of micro-funds covering an average of just 4 hectares. A failure, that of cooperatives, mainly due to the resistance of the rural population, linked to more traditional models. The policy pursued in the past by the communist governments did not allow to achieve appreciable results and in general the levels of productivity. they remain rather low due to notable deficiencies in mechanization. However, given the presence of a very extensive agricultural area (about 45% of the territory), the sector continues to play a strategic role, so much so as to place Poland in the first places on a European scale in certain specific production sectors. The prevalent crops are represented by cereals (especially in the vast plains along the course of the Vistula) and potatoes, a fundamental component of the diet of which Poland is among the world’s leading producers and which is also used as fodder and as an industrial raw material. The main cereal product is rye which, although it no longer plays a primary role in food in many regions, lends itself to various uses, the main one being the manufacture of fundamental component of the food of which Poland is among the first world producers and which is also used as fodder and as an industrial raw material. The main cereal product is rye which, although it no longer plays a primary role in food in many regions, lends itself to various uses, the main one being the manufacture of fundamental component of the food of which Poland is among the first world producers and which is also used as fodder and as an industrial raw material. The main cereal product is rye which, although it no longer plays a primary role in food in many regions, lends itself to various uses, the main one being the manufacture of vodka. Also important is the production of wheat, widespread in southern Poland, of barley and oats, to an extent however not sufficient to cover domestic needs. Among the industrial crops, the production of sugar beet, widespread in the western provinces, which makes Poland one of the largest sugar producers in Europe, and that of tobacco are important; followed by flax, grown in the eastern regions (Lublin) and rapeseed, while hemp and hops are less important. The country also produces considerable quantities of cabbage, onions, vegetables in general and legumes and, among fruit, especially apples. Forests, consisting mainly of conifers, do not have an adequate weight in the country’s economy for their diffusion, as the annual production of timber, largely coming from Silesia and used in the paper and construction industry, as well as as material fuel, is relatively scarce. The zootechnical patrimony is very substantial: for pigs, according to indexdotcom.com, Poland ranks among the largest producers in Europe, as well as for horses, whose breeding the vast plains are well suited. They are also widely used in rural areas for work in the fields and for the transport of goods. Cattle breeding also recorded a good increase, following the growing demand for meat and milk; the main livestock products include meat, milk and dairy products. Poultry animals are also widespread everywhere. A sector that has seen its importance increase more and more is that of fishing (main products are squid, cod and herring), in which large state-owned companies operate: the most important fishing ports, also home to efficient canning industries, are Gdynia, Świnoujście and Szczecin.