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Tavani, Sara

Poland opens to the West: Polish-German diplomacy and Market Socialism (1970-1976)

The main goal of this paper is to investigate the economic and social consequences of Poland’s new openness to Western Europe following the Polish-German Treaty in 1970. The Treaty was the first German guarantee on the Oder-Neisse border. It contributed above all to the normalization of relations between Poland and the Federal Republic and, in a broader sense, to inaugurate a new era of relations between Eastern and Western Europe. As recent Western and Russian studies show (M.P. Rey, 2005, or L. I. Glucharev, 2006), in the early ’70s bilateral economic relations and relations between Eastern countries and the EEC began filling the gap in the dialogue across the Iron Curtain.

This paper will focus on the link between increasing openness to Western Europe in Poland and the launch of a domestic process of economic and social reforms led by Gierek. The normalization of German-Polish relations generated a new atmosphere of confidence and reduced Poland’s strategic reliance on the Soviet Union. This enabled the government to act in a dynamic and independent way both in domestic policy and in relations with Western Europe. Reformism in Poland brought about permanent social change with direct repercussions on the 1980-1981’s crisis.    

In my paper I propose to address the following issues:

1)         The impact of diplomatic and economic openness to Western Europe on the Polish economic system and the long-term implications of this transformation. Based on COMECON data, and the analysis elaborated by Polish economists (L. Balcerowicz, W. Kuczyński - 1979, 1980 - or P. Dembiński - 1984), the paper will illustrate how Market Socialism in Poland was boosted by the opening to the West.
2)         The momentous changes introduced in Polish society by the “economic miracle” and their role in setting the stage for the birth of Solidarność mass movement. This theme will be discussed taking into account different approaches: from the analysis of Polish sociologists such as Jerzy Szacki, to Western experts such as the RFE observers (OSA) and finally Russian scholars (Institut Naučnoj Informacii po Obščestvennym Naukam, RAN).

Thursday 29 Oct, 13.45-15.45 SESSION 2
Panel: Breaching the Wall: Ostpolitik/Westpolitik and Trade