Poland wants to reopen internal market negotiations

Poland is expected to ask the EU to reopen negotiations on the free movement of goods in order to secure longer transition periods for Polish pharmaceutical companies for drug registration procedures. Political analysts see the move as a setback, which could delay Poland’s progress in the enlargement process.

Polish pharmaceutical companies say they are unable to implement EU rules without transition periods. However, Poland would fall behind other candidates if it reopens this chapter. All candidate countries except Bulgaria and Romania have concluded negotiations on the free movement of goods.

Poland has concluded negotiations on this chapter without a transition period, which means that Polish pharmaceutical companies have to register all their products according to EU standards immediately upon accession rather than wait until the expiration of their five-year permits.

The price of Polish medicines, now three to four times cheaper than EU products, would rise immediately if Poland had to adopt EU rules on accession, according to the Polish pharmaceutical industry.

Poland is currently lagging behind other front-runner candidates in accession negotiations. It has so far only closed 17 out of 30 chapters, while Cyprus has closed 23, Hungary 22, Slovenia 21, and the Czech Republic, Estonia and Slovakia 19 each. The EU plans to conclude negotiations with the front-runners by the end of 2002.

 

Foreign pharmaceutical companies are dissatisfied with the Polish move, saying that Polish pharmaceutical companies would have the advantage of marketing products that do not meet EU safety and quality standards.

Poland is expected to speed up the pace of accession negotiations after the September 23 general elections, when a new government would be able to commit itself to reform.

However, the former Polish foreign minister and leader of the Freedom Alliance party, Bronislaw Geremek, has recently warned that Poland's EU membership is a questionable issue. According to him, this issue will depend on the economic situation in the country, which is worsening due to the global economic downturn. He warned that the EU could delay its accession if it starts perceiving Poland as an unstable country with weak economic growth.

Poland's President Aleksander Kwasniewski admitted in the beginning of September that delays in accession negotiation might postpone Polish membership in the EU until 2010.

 

The Belgian Presidency of the EU will continue negotiations on competition policy, transport policy, energy, taxation, customs union, agriculture, fisheries, justice and home affairs, and financial control in the second half of 2001. All the financial issues, including farm and regional development subsidies, will be dealt with under the Spanish Presidency in the first half of 2002. Negotiations with the most advanced countries could be concluded by the end of 2002, allowing them to join by the end of 2004.

 

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