Poland is one of the largest countries in Central Europe and shares 3582 km of border with Germany, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. Its northern frontier on the Baltic Sea gives it easy access to Scandinavian and the North Sea ports.
It is a country of gentle relief, with its highest elevation being the Carpathian mountain ranges on its border and Rysy mountain peak A fifth of the land is pasture and meadows and almost a third is covered by forest. The longest rivers are the Vistula and the Odra which flows along its western border. 23 National Parks make up only 1% of the country’s extent.
The Republic of Poland has a population of approximately 38 million, and it is a member of both the European Union and a Schengen country. Poland played a major role in the demise of the Soviet Union in 1989, joined NATO in 1999, and became a member of the European Union in 2004. It was the only European country to record economic growth during the 2009 credit crisis.
Trade is extremely important to the country’s economy. Exports and imports equal 101% of GDP. Government policies do not interfere with foreign investment. The country has a growing banking sector which is more competitive than ever before, and capital markets are expanding.
Education is compulsory for all children from 7 to 18 years of age. Full-time education at state institutions of higher education is free for Polish citizens. It is also free for foreigners who meet certain criteria. Social assistance benefits are non-contributory and are granted to people and families whose income is within a specified threshold.
Social assistance benefits include health and welfare insurance, funeral costs, specialist advice, social work, shelter, food and necessary clothing in hardship cases, care services, social assistance homes, education, family counselling and family therapy. With more than a third of Polish population looking to be over 65 by 2030, the country’s workforce will be severely constrained a will its health care and pension systems.
Poland has the Gothic cathedrals of Krakow and the salt-washed beaches of the Baltic bays, and so contrasting attractions abound. Poland boasts 15 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the medieval Kraków Old Town, Auschwitz, Salt mines and Białowieza Forest. Warsaw has a hive of interesting activities just in the one city including museums, architectural interests, historical sites and the historic city centre which is a UNESCO site.
As a member of the European Union and a Schengen country, nationals from 62 non-EU countries currently enjoy the benefits of visiting Poland without having to apply for a visa. These nationals will be affected by The European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) when it is rolled out in 2021. These nationals will have to apply for authorisation online and pay the fee in order to have the electronic authorisation included in their passport. The authorisation is valid until the passport expires or 3 years, whichever comes first.
The European Commission prompted this travel authorisation following the increased terrorist activity and problems associated with uncontrolled immigrants entering the EU countries. ETIAS will identify these risks before reaching the country’s borders. This control will greatly improve the security of the borders and the safety of the European Union and Schengen country citizens.
Australia and Poland have many bilateral agreements including the Investment and Promotion and Protection Agreement, Double Taxation Agreement, Extradition Treaty, Air Services Agreement, a Joint Communiqué on Cooperation in Environmental Technologies, Goods and Services, a Social Security Agreement, and a Memorandum of Understanding on a bilateral Work and Holiday Maker Visa Arrangement.
Over 180,000 Australians residents are of Polish ancestry. The Polish community promotes commercial and academic ties through community organisations, bilateral business councils and institutes. Several Australian landmarks were named by or in honour of Polish explorer, Paul Edmund Strzelecki. The first Polish settler came to Australia as a convict in October 1803. The immigrants lured by the 1850 gold rush mostly returned to Poland to take part in the 1863 uprisings. After World War II two main waves of Polish immigration occurred between 1947 and 1955 and again in 1980. The first wave were mostly refugees and the second were as a result of the relaxation of Polish emigration laws around the time martial law was instituted in Poland
Poland is a growing market for Australia’s commercial interests and two-way goods and services trade is dominated by merchandise imports from Poland. Trade in services is more balanced. Australia’s major exports are coal, copper ores and concentrate and other ores and concentrates. Australian investment in Poland has grown substantially while Polish investment in Australia is relatively small.
Once ETIAS is implemented, Australians will need to apply online through ETIAS to get pre-authorisation to travel to Poland. The ETIAS is very similar to Australia’s ETA visa waiver system and will be similarly efficient and cost-effective. Polish visitors to Australia already have to apply for ETA authorisation.