Polish Farmers Declare War On European Membership

Northstar Compass, August 2000

Thousands of Polish smallholders claim that they are being pushed to the wall in the Warsaw government's rush to negotiate with Brussels on entry to the European Union.

Polish politicians are embracing this entry but the farmers are furious since it will wipe out their livelihoods.

“Polish agriculture is already ruined,” said one farmer, Stanislaw Bojkovski, 67, who now tills 50 acres near Augustow.

The European Union Commission finalizes the plans for entry of Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Estonia, Slovenia and Cyprus. Most of the Polish fields around Augustow are now nearly a wasteland.

“Farming was worthwhile under Communism, but Warsaw's European Union madness is driving us out of the farming business” continued Stanislaw Bojkovski. He is not alone! According to estimates compiled by the Polish Peasant's Party, only 600,000 of the country's 2,000,000 farms will survive the process of joining the EU. Yet Warsaw's present liberal-conservative government is adamant that Poland must join EU as soon as possible.

“The money I get from selling wheat and potatoes hardly makes it worthwhile. The bulk of my income comes mostly from my old age pension,” he said again.

Another farmer, Mieczyslaw Suchocki told the reporter that: “In the 1980's my 74-acre farm was subsidized by the state. A single tobacco crop I produced made me enough money to buy a new car.” Now the terms of how much can be grown by Polish farmers will be set by the multinational British and American Tobacco Company. All of our drying equipment for the tobacco crops must be bought from this company at extremely high prices. The collapse of all small-scale farming (instead of collective or state farms, as it was before) is a dilemma faced by all the EU candidate countries, but very acute in Poland, where over 26% of the working population is in agriculture.

The Peasant Party spokesman, Roman Jagielinski, demands that the farmers be subsidized by Poland and also by the EU in Brussels. But Brussels so far has turned a deaf ear to this plea.

The anger of the Polish farmers boiled over last year, when the militant agricultural worker's union (Self-Defense) staged countrywide militant protests against the flood of cheap EU imports. This persuaded Warsaw to temporarily ban all imports and raise the amount paid to the home-grown products.

“Poland is not being treated as a partner by the EU. We are simply being used by the transnational corporations as a dumping ground for all of their surplus products”, said Andrej Lepper, who is running as a presidential candidate this fall in Polish elections.

Two-thirds of all the farmers said that they will take part in future militant actions of protests.