Economics Professor Invited to Poland for EU Study
Converse College economics professor Dr. Woodrow Hughes has been selected to join 15 other S.C. educators on a five-week swing through Poland to conduct a case study on that country’s admission into the European Union (EU). The group leaves June 7 and is slated to return July 11. The study is a Fulbright-Hays Abroad project and is being funded by education departments at both the federal and state levels. Other colleges represented are Wofford, USCS, Coastal Carolina, and Winthrop.
“Poland is one of 10 countries that are on track to officially join the EU in May 2004,” said Dr. Hughes. “Over the past few months, however, domestic support within Poland has continued to fall. A referendum to join the EU was voted down by the Polish general population in February of this year.”
The S.C. group will be meeting with business and finance leaders, educators, and civic government principals to gauge the concerns of the Polish population. Dr. Hughes regularly leads courses that focus on international trade and economic problems of developing countries.
“Many Poles suspect they are being offered ‘second-class’ membership terms and that Poland may be forced into decisions that would be disadvantageous to the country’s vast rural electorate,” said Dr. Hughes. “For example, the EU promotes mobility of labor. But the organization wants to limit the number of Polish workers who could migrate to other EU countries for higher wages.”
Another sticking point is the subsidization of agriculture by the EU. Poland has a huge agriculture sector. An EU proposal in Feb. 2002 for future agricultural subsidy levels called for newcomers initially to receive 25% of the level of subsidy enjoyed by Western farmers was met with anger in the Polish countryside. Although subsidy levels would rise to parity with Western Europe over 10 years, the fear among Poland’s substantial agricultural workforce is that many of them will be driven out of business in the intervening years. Add to this Poland’s longstanding fear of being exploited by powerful neighbors and the fact that the EU has also insisted on a seven-year transition period before Poland can enjoy the same freedom of labor movement that the EU already has. Thus, the scope for a populist backlash is immense.
Since 1961, the Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad Program has awarded grants to universities, state departments of education, and private nonprofit educational organizations to provide training opportunities for faculty, teachers, and students in foreign countries where the United States has diplomatic representation. Under this program, awards are made to conduct overseas group projects in research, training, and curriculum development.