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Bargaining for something better : the Polish peasants and the European Union Pielacha, Stanislawa Ewa

Abstract

This study investigates and analyzes Polish peasants' attitudes and rationales for opposition to Poland's inclusion in the European Union. It was designed to determine peasant objections, attitudes among peasant landowners and the likelihood of continued their opposition after the impact of EU accession. Face to face interviews were conducted with three strata of Polish peasants who were selected based on their level of landholdings: large, middle and small size. In addition, political leaders and experts were interviewed for their opinions. Pertinent documents (scholarly literature, statistical data, newspapers, Polish state and EU documents, archival materials of political organizations) were researched to provide additional data concerning the peasants' situation, their actions and protests and in order to make the picture of the peasants' circumstances more comprehensive. Since objections pertained to EU accession and the anticipated impact of EU membership on peasants the study also examines EU policies and their previous effect on agriculture as well as future programs that will have a specific impact on Polish peasants. The study concludes that most peasants participated in the anti-European integration movement in order to bargain for better conditions of EU membership. The policies of European integration and the most recent conditions of Poland's membership in the EU discriminate against Polish agriculture vis-a-vis Western European members and favor peasant larger landholdings in Poland over the smaller ones. By the time the differential treatment of Polish agriculture is due to end in 2014, small peasant landholdings will be extinguished. This is likely to displace over one million of peasant households from this occupation. Dependent on state and EU social policies, the restructured peasant class is likely to be characterized by uneducated electorate and by lack of leaders and material resources to engage in the opposition movement against EU policies.

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