Country Information Poland
at a glance
civilization and culture
AT A GLANCE
312 685 kmē
38.5 million (Juli 2009)
Warsaw (1,7 million inhabitants 2008)
Gross domestic product per capita
US$ 17 300 (2008) (PPP)
-0.05 per cent (2009)
75,6 years (men: 71,7 years, women: 79,9 years) (2009)
6,8 per 1000 live births (2009)
Rate of illiteracy
0.2 % (men: 0.2 %, women: 0.3 %) (2003)
Tourists to Poland come above all from Germany. A large group also come from former East Bloc countries. The range of tourist attractions including hill climbing, winter sports in South Poland and water tourism on the Masurian lakes. Also famous is the 528 kilometer long Baltic coast in the north of the country. Cities such as Warsaw, Wroclaw, Gdansk and especially Krakow are favourite destinations. Germans also make good use of the opportunity to cross over the common border to do some cheap shopping. According to UNWTO in the year 2005 approximately 15,2 million guests came into the country and paid 5,1 billion Euro.
Commercial sexual exploitation of children in tourism
The number of Polish children in prostitution increases from year to year. In 2004, at the main meeting point for paedo-sexual perpetrators in Warsaw 1.000 boys and girls were forced into prostitution. Numerous cases are known in which tourists, mostly from Germany, but also from Italy, Sweden and non-European countries, have travelled to Poland with the aim of perpetrating sexual offences.
According to the Warsaw police, criminal gangs offer minors for sexual exploitation. The problem is not restricted to the big cities. In various places along the German-Polish border, girls and boys are forced into prostitution.
Many women are brought from the Polish heartland to the German-polish border region. Women and children are transported to Germany, or further to other European countries, and are sexually exploited at their destination.
On 7 June 1991, Poland ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and undertook to protect children against all forms of sexual exploitation. Recruiting and acting as an agent for prostitutes, and the abuse of women and children are punished with prison sentences.
According to estimates from UNAIDS and the World Health Organization, at the end of 2007 approximately 20.000 people in Poland were infected with HIV, including 5.500 women. How many children were infected, could not be estimated. In the same year less than 200 Poles died following infection with HIV.
Komitet Ochrony Praw Dziecka
(Committee for the Protection of Children's Rights - Poland)
ul.Hoza 27A lok.5, Poland
Phone: +48 626 94 19
Fax: +48 626 89 57
Nobody's Children Foundation
(Fundacja Dzieci Niczyje)
ul. Walecznych 59
Phone: +48 22 616-02-68
Fax. +48 22 6160314
CIVLIZATION AND CULTURE
Established as a kingdom in the 10th century, Poland became a major force in central Europe at the end of the 14th century in union with Lithuania. Weakened by wars with Sweden and Russia, Poland lost its independence at the end of 17th century when August the Strong of Saxony became king. In the late 18th century Poland was divided between Prussia, Austria, and Russia.
Poland regained sovereignty after the First World War, but the invasions of its neighbours Germany and the Soviet Union led to the start of World War II. After the end of the war it was controlled by a Soviet-dominated government. The Polish eastern border was moved West, and in turn eastern parts of Germany were included in Poland. In the 1980s the protests of the Solidarity movement were one of the key factors leading to reforms and finally the free elections of 1989. Ten years after the end of the Warsaw Pact, Poland was a member of NATO, and in 2004 it joined the European Union.
State and society
Poland is a parliamentary democracy with a two-chamber parliament. Both chambers, the Sejm and Senate are elected for a four-year period. The Sejm has 460 members and the Senate 100 Senators. The head of state is a State President elected by popular vote for five years. The government has the form of a council of ministers headed by a prime minister.
Poland is ethnically homogenous, and national minorities account for less than 5% of the population. 95 per cent of the population are Roman Catholics. As in other countries of Eastern Europe, the restructuring involved in the transfer to a market economy affected women particularly hard, and the rate of unemployment for women grew disproportionately. There have also been reports of increased discrimination and violence against women. Children also suffer under domestic violence and neglect. One effect of this is the large number of street children.
The country's resources include coal, sulphur, and copper ore. The largest sector of Poland's economy is the services sector with 55%, followed by industry with 38% and agriculture with 7%. Since the collapse of communism, Poland has coped with the transition to a market economy relatively successfully and shows considerable economic growth year-on-year. Decentralisation and privatisation have led to the growth of a lively sector of small and medium-sized enterprises.