April 26, 2015 / 9:08 AM / 3 years ago

Euro accession a turn-off for Polish voters

WARSAW (Reuters) - One of the most vocal advocates of Poland’s adoption of the euro, President Bronislaw Komorowski, has ditched the issue as he campaigns for re-election next month, a sign of how toxic it has become for voters.

Poland's President Bronislaw Komorowski (R) takes part in mass celebration marking finish of the ski season at Kasprowy Wierch in Tatra Mountains near Zakopane, southern Poland April 25, 2015. REUTERS/Marek Podmokly/Agencja Gazeta

On the evidence of Komorowski’s campaign, the largest economy in Central and Eastern Europe is unlikely to join the troubled currency union for years.

Just last October, the 62-year-old said it would be harder for Poland to wield international influence if it stayed outside the euro zone, and called for more public debate.

Then, last month, with his ratings falling, he told state TV: “I have proposed not to discuss entry to the euro zone until we meet the criteria,” describing the issue as “illusory” for now.

The shift sends a message to Komorowski’s centre-right allies in the ruling Civic Platform party, who face their own election later this year, that there is little to be gained by running on a pro-euro ticket.

“The spectre of Greece is haunting us,” said Kazimierz Kik, a political scientist at the Jan Kochanowski University in the city of Kielce. “Komorowski could have lost votes if he had stuck with his line.”

An aide to the president who declined to be named said: “The presidential campaign is not a time to conduct a debate on the euro, because it is not the president who will be adopting the euro in Poland,” adding: “Quick adoption of the euro is not on the table.”

While Poles rank among the most enthusiastic supporters of the European Union, Greece’s debt woes and the chance that it could leave the 19-nation euro zone have put them off the single currency.

Pollster CBOS last October found 68 percent of Poles opposed to joining the euro, with just 24 percent in favour.

Meanwhile Komorowski enjoyed over 50 percent support in surveys at the end of last year, enough for outright victory on May 10. But a poll published on April 24 put him on 41 percent, with Andrzej Duda of the Law and Justice (PiS) party on 26 percent and set to force a run-off.

Many see little gain in currency union; since early 2007, Poland’s economy has grown by a cumulative 33 percent, compared to 4 percent for the euro zone. Its public debt stands at 50 percent of GDP, against a euro zone average of over 90 percent.

Many Poles also fear that prices would rise if they adopted the euro, while wages would not.

In his campaign, Duda has shown supermarket prices in euro zone-member Slovakia that are twice as high as in Poland. The average monthly corporate wage stands at 4,214 zlotys (1,050 euros), less than 30 percent of the equivalent in Germany.

“It may turn out that the euro zone falls apart,” said Magda Bielecka, 33, a banking employee from Warsaw. “When I‘m earning in euros what I earn in zlotys now, then I could join the euro.” (1 euro = 4.0130 zlotys)

Additional reporting by Pawel Sobczak; Writing by Marcin Goettig; Editing by Matt Robinson and Kevin Liffey

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