Poland is beginning its EU presidency acknowledging that the union faces some of its most difficult moments.
It wants to use the six-month term at the helm to strengthen the single market, press ahead with EU enlargement, and sort out the issue of migration.
Poland is Europe’s sixth most populous country Since joining the EU seven years ago it has notched up strong economic growth. Uniquely among the 27 member bloc, it managed to avoid recession throughout the financial crisis.
Despite the apparent success story, not everyone is convinced of the merits of being in the EU.
Marek Laskus, from the village of Lesznowola near Warsaw, has been a farmer for 40 years.
“Frankly speaking, until now the European Union hasn’t done anything for us farmers, even though Poland has now been in the EU for some time, and honestly I don’t believe they’ll help us,” he said.
Even so, Polish support for the EU remains high, above 80 percent according to opinion polls.
Ryszard Szczerba has owned his building business for 15 years. He believes EU membership and taking over the six-month presidency should both be embraced.
“For me personally it’s a good day for Poland. Although I’m not quite sure how much it will change things, I do think it will open up opportunities for the country. The question is whether we use these opportunities or not. That will come down to hard work, taking those opportunities and political consensus,” he said.
Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s government appears to be banking on harnessing such europhile support, hoping a stint in leading the EU’s tune for the next six months will impress voters when they go to the polls in October.