Amid the euro crisis it seems elusive to think about further enlargement of the euro zone. After all, the political elites, the media, and the common European people are busy debating whether the euro will even survive. The legitimate questions being asked are whether it’s fair to help states to stay in if, in the short term, it means the transfer of billions of euros to aid the peripheries’ dead economies and further guarantees of unimaginable proportions to appease the financial markets; and if, in the long run, the stabilization of the euro zone means further integration and more hollowing out of the nation state? While some euro zone insiders might wonder why they joined the single currency in the first place, it may also lead those on the outside to be relieved that they have not. In that kind of climate why would any member state voluntarily want to “join this mess”? The Treaty on European Union requires all EU member states (unless a member state has secured a permanent derogation as is the case with Denmark and the UK) to join the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), but not in a specific time frame. Therefore, member states can theoretically defer the entry into ERM III indefinitely. Sweden has set a precedence case for this. I argue that Poland’s early and full commitment to the euro would not only benefit its interests but also give Germany more options in setting the pace for Europe.
Poland is a new member state (NMS) that joined the EU in May 2004 without an opt-out pertaining the euro question. At the beginning of the millennium, the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) government forged an ambitious plan to adopt the euro by 2007, but by mid 2003 the plan had failed. The more Eurosceptic Law and Justice (PiS) government under the leadership of the Kaczyński twins sought to delay the adoption of the common currency for as long as possible. A week before their electoral defeat in the 2007 parliamentary elections, Finance Minister Zyta Gilowska announced that Poland would be ready to talk about joining the ERM II mechanism in 2009, with the intention to join in 2012. In 2008, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s first Civic Platform government published a roadmap on fulfilling the nominal convergence criteria by 2011, with the euro replacing the zloty in 2012. The banking, sovereign debt, and euro crises obliterated these plans.
Since then, the Tusk government has sent mixed messages. Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski remarked in an interview in December 2011 that Poland could join by 2016 if “the euro zone is reformed by then and if joining is beneficial to us”. In January 2012 Finance Minister Jacek Rostowski corrected Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament, who said that Poland would join EMU in 2015. Rostowski clarified that “we do not intend to join in 2015, but want to fulfill the fiscal requirements.” He added that is was difficult to predict whether Poland will have fulfilled all the necessary requirements, and that it is “likely, but it is not our goal. Whether we will fulfill the exchange rate criteria? That is unlikely since we do not assume that we will have joined ERM II.” In July 2012, Jacek Dominik, Government Plenipotentiary for the Euro Adoption in Poland, when asked what happened to the National Plan to Introduce the Euro prepared by the Finance Ministry, he replied that “given the scale of changes in the euro zone it has been purposefully considered to hold the work on the document.” However, on his visit to Canada in May 2012, Prime Minister Donald Tusk stated that Poland is ready to join the euro: “On that question nothing has changed. The only thing that has changed is the euro zone’s reputation which has decisively worsened over the last years”. He added that the European Union must continue political as well as economic integration, of which one element should certainly be a common currency, but that “it has only sense when common rules exist and when all euro zone member states observe these rules.”5]