(Adds details, background)
By Karolina Slowikowska and Pawel Sobczak
WARSAW, June 4 Poland should begin a debate next
year about when to adopt the euro, its president, finance
minister and central bank chief said on Wednesday, marking a
departure from previous scepticism about the single currency.
Separately, Lech Walesa, one-time leader of the
pro-democracy Solidarity trade union that ended communism in
Poland, said the country should join the euro for its own
President Bronislaw Komorowski, Finance Minister Mateusz
Szczurek and National Bank of Poland Governor Marek Belka all
said euro entry should be discussed after a parliamentary
election scheduled to take place in late 2015.
The new appetite for potential accession to the 18-member
euo zone appeared to be a reaction to Russia's annexation in
March of territory in Poland's neighbour Ukraine.
Poland, which joined the European Union in 2004 after
shaking off decades of Soviet domination and Communist rule,
sees membership of the euro zone as an additional form of
security because it would lock the country firmly into Europe's
The zloty currency reached its strongest level
against the euro on Wednesday in about a year, a rise that one
bank analyst attributed in part to the talk about accession.
In an address to parliament, Komorowski said euro entry was
necessary for Poland to strengthen its position in Europe.
"We must face this challenge ... I have the opinion that
this discussion should take place after the (2015) elections,"
Asked by reporters for his view on the president's remarks,
Szczurek said: "I fully agree with what the president said about
the euro. It must be a conscious process, backed by a strong
Central bank chief Belka, asked the same question by
reporters, said he shared the president's position.
Poland and other east European states committed to adopting
the euro when they joined the EU, although no date was set. The
staunchly pro-EU, centre-right government of Prime Minister
Donald Tusk has signalled it is in no rush to join.
Polish economists say the country already meets two of the
technical criteria for entry and that the remaining two, on the
budget deficit and on entering the ERM-2 exchange rate corridor,
are comfortably within its reach.
Some policymakers have even said they believe that in
Poland's case the requirement that the zloty enters ERM-2 for
two years before entry could be waived on the grounds that it
has in practice shown the required stability even though Warsaw
never declared it was entering.
But there are political hurdles. Opinion polls show a
majority of voters do not back euro adoption, having seen the
devastation wrought by the debt crisis that swept through euro
zone economies such as Greece and Ireland in recent years.
Poland's economy continued to grow throughout that period.
Adopting the euro would require a change in Poland's
constitution, to be enacted by a two-thirds majority in
parliament. But supporters cannot muster the votes from
lawmakers needed to push the change through.
Earlier on Wednesday, Walesa, the former electrician who
became Poland's first post-communist president in 1990, said the
country needed to be in the euro to be fully safe from Russia.
"(Entering the euro zone) is the final thing that concerns
me. This is not a full freedom. I will do everything, regardless
of the personal costs, to help us to get to the euro zone."
"And only then will Poland be safe and progressing. And I
will be serene," Walesa said in an interview published on
Wednesday in the Gazeta Wyborcza daily.
Though Walesa has no say in government decisions, he does
have influence on public opinion in Poland, especially among
conservatives who have traditionally been reluctant to give up
(Writing by Christian Lowe and Karolina Slowikowska; Editing by
Catherine Evans/Ruth Pitchford)