15 December 2014

Firmly opposed 41%
Opposed 27%
In favour 15%
Firmly in favour 9%
Firmly opposed 9%
Opposed 13%
In favour 29%
Firmly in favour 35%

Euro adoption: Poles distinguish between Eurozone and EU membership

A new CBOS poll out today shows that Polish support for ditching the zloty in favour of adopting the euro has hit its lowest-ever recorded level. Poland’s plummeting confidence in the euro does not coincide with falling support for its EU membership itself, however. The poll finds that 84% of Poles support staying in the EU, showing that they clearly distinguish between EU and Eurozone membership.

Poland is a crucial country for the future relationship between Eurozone and non-Eurozone countries, and, therefore, for the future development of the EU itself. Officially, Warsaw likes to describe itself as a “pre-in” country, as it is legally obliged to adopt the single currency. Similarly, euro-enthusiasts from Madrid to Berlin won’t hesitate to launch a robust monologue about Poland’s ‘imminent’ Eurozone entry.

Poland unlikely to join Eurozone in near future

However, Poland will have to cross serious hurdles to join the euro. Firstly, the public doesn’t want it, and voters have not bought into the arguments made by many Polish politicians to convince them otherwise (the latest one being that Eurozone membership will provide additional security from Russian expansionism). Although joining the euro doesn’t require a dedicated referendum in Poland, with 68% of voters against the motion, it’s hard to see any government wanting to go there.

Secondly, a Polish euro-entry will require changing the constitution with a  2/3 majority in parliament. This is a majority that the pro-euro parties do not have, and are unlikely to gain at the next election. Though Poland’s main opposition Law and Justice party and its allies say they would be prepared to change the constitution if a dedicated referendum on euro membership is held, this vote looks impossible to win, and as discussed above, politicians aren’t keen. In addition, the Polish Central Bank is not enthusiastic about a swift euro adoption either.

What does it mean for the rest of the EU?

Despite its geo-political angst and close ties to Berlin, Poland is in similar situation to Denmark and Sweden – neither of whom will join the euro within next 10-20 years.  Like Poland, the Czech Republic also faces opposition to the euro amongst its voters and its central bank, with difficult constitutional changes required in order to join the Eurozone.

The longer that Poland and others remain outside the Eurozone, the harder it will be to maintain the EU’s current institutional framework, which assumes that everyone, bar Sweden and Denmark, will eventually join the euro. Likewise, Poland and other-non Eurozone countries may become more likely to support further safeguards to prevent decisions made by  the Eurozone from encroaching on the rules governing the single market.