When I lived in Poland in the mid-1980s, I was once given a one-zloty coin for Christmas. This was no ordinary one-zloty coin, however. It was stamped on one side with an image of the Lenin shipyard in Gdansk, the birthplace of the Solidarity independent trade union. Poland’s Communist authorities had suppressed Solidarity under martial law in December 1981. Underground Solidarity activists used to take away the coins, stamp them with the shipyard’s image and then put them back into circulation as a way of reminding Poles that the movement had not disappeared altogether.
Today Poland’s government is keen to switch from the zloty to the euro. Like other governments in the region, it sees early eurozone entry as a way of protecting its economy against the world financial crisis. Poland envies Slovenia and Slovakia, which qualified for eurozone membership ahead of other new European Union member-states. They are now reaping the rewards of belonging to a large and – whatever the tensions generated by the financial crisis – broadly stable single currency bloc. Read more