We will always remember what happened on 30 August 2014, as we will always cherish memories of 1 May 2004 when Poland became a member of the EU. When Herman Van Rompuy said on Twitter "The European Council has elected prime minister Donald Tusk as the next president of the European Council and Euro Summits," we knew this was another watershed in the history of Poland and the EU for many reasons. The appointment marks the end of an unjust division in the EU between "old members" and "new ones". It is a personal tribute to Donald Tusk, the only Polish prime minister to have been re-elected since the collapse of communism in 1989, who has been head of government since 2007, which makes him, as president Van Rompuy said, "one of the veterans of the European Council". It is also a tribute to Poland and its people as we are regarded as a symbol of success in Europe and worldwide. Prime minister Tusk has steered Poland through the economic crisis, and managed to maintain steady economic growth - we are confident he will manage to strengthen the EU in all the aspects of the Union's activity.
Over more than 10 years of our membership of the EU, Poland has become a significant political player in the Union. We have demonstrated in Brussels that we are predictable, responsible and active, which culminated in the successful Polish Presidency of the EU Council in the second half of 2011. Poland has become a leader of economic growth - after joining the EU, our GDP grew by 48.7%. We saw an investment and consumption boom, followed by structural changes. Poland has moved up from the 48th position in 2004 to the 33rd position in 2013 in the IMD World Competitiveness Center ranking. We have managed to establish efficient institutions that guarantee economic stability, such as an independent central bank, the Financial Supervision Authority or the Bank Guarantee Fund. Poland has been the most desired investment destination in Central and Eastern Europe (in particular among investors from the rest of the EU). In fact, every third euro they have invested has ended up in our country. Polish entrepreneurs have turned a PLN 13.5bn trade deficit with EU member states in 2003 (-2 % of GDP) into an impressive trade surplus of almost PLN 100bn in 2013 (6 % of GDP). Thanks to EU funds in 2004-2013 over 160,000 projects were implemented. We have shaped the EU's common foreign and security policy - let me just mention the Eastern Partnership initiative and Poland's role in Ukraine.
President Van Rompuy said prime minister Tusk, in his new role, would face three major challenges: the stagnating European economy, the Ukraine crisis and "Britain's place in Europe". I am happy that the Polish prime minister mentioned the UK during his first press conference after the appointment. This was not just a gesture of sympathy, but a real expression of our consistent policy of underlining how important the UK in the EU is, despite some differences that we may have as to the future integration of the Union. Prime minister Tusk mentioned in this context the freedom of movement, stressing that it is necessary to eliminate any kind of fraud and unjust instances of fishing for benefits. Poland has consistently expressed this opinion - our citizens do not come to the UK to abuse the system, but to work hard, contributing to the prosperity of the UK. That is why, we have nothing against eradicating of any dishonest practices on condition that all the changes are in accordance with the EU law and non-discriminatory. I presented my views on these subjects in my interview for Huffington Post UK and in my blog entries . Among other things, I said in January 2013 that Poland would be willing to help the UK change its relationship with the EU ahead of an in/out referendum, as "we all want a better functioning EU, respecting subsidiarity, and reducing its bureaucratic burden." I added that "I believe we can accommodate some British proposals. We would definitely want Britain to remain a member" - if the UK left the EU, it would mean "fundamental changes" in the EU, as no country has ever left. I also underlined that "the UK, to some extent, created the single market. It has special relationships with the USA, supports transatlantic relations, and is able to influence politics globally. It has a huge influence in the world through its links with the Commonwealth countries. Leaving the EU would mean not only less power for the UK, but also for the EU. It would harm our global interests" . As prime minister Tusk said, we have not an indifferent attitude towards the future of the UK in the EU. We want your country to be an active, strong member of the EU, shaping its future with the other 27 member states for the good of Europe and the world. Thank you Britain for your support for Donald Tusk's candidacy.