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Poland - Overview

Capital: Warsaw

Population: 38,635,144 (July 2005 est.)

Languages: Polish 97.8%, other and unspecified 2.2% (2002 census)

Religions: Roman Catholic 89.8% (about 75% practicing), Eastern Orthodox 1.3%, Protestant 0.3%, other 0.3%, unspecified 8.3% (2002)

Currency: zloty (PLN)

Timezone: GMT+1

Poland is a large country located in Central Europe, to the east of Germany, with the Baltic Sea to the north. It also has borders with a number of other eastern European states. Geographically it consists of three distinct regions, a gently undulating, partly forested area with many lakes in the north of the country, a flat central agricultural region and mountains in the southern border region.

Previously a communist country, Poland was Eastern Europe's first post-communist state, electing a democratic government in 1989. Despite an initial period of political and economic instability, Poland has successfully made the transition to a mainly privatized market economy. The country has benefited considerably from joining the EU from May 2004, taking advantage of the increased opportunities for exporting to other EU countries. However, Poland still has high levels of poverty and a relatively high unemployment rate. Development is being hampered by the existence of a vast, largely inefficient agricultural sector, and by the continuing fiscal pressures of the post-communist reforms in public services.

As yet, Poland has only a very small expatriate community. However, now that Poland is part of the EU, an increasing number of foreign employers are entering Poland, attracted particularly by the sheer size of the potential market in this vast country and the expected acceleration of economic growth.

Poland is also an increasingly popular tourist destination, its main attractions being its historical cities and its rich traditional culture and musical heritage. There are major contrasts between the sophistication of the main cities, including Warsaw and Krakow, and the rest of the country, which retains a very traditional rural way of life. Warsaw had many of its historical buildings from different eras painstakingly restored after the heavy bombing of the city during WW2 and is a very attractive and historically fascinating destination. It is also developing as a vibrant business and financial centre. Krakow, twice named the 'Cultural Capital of Europe' in recent years, offers a more relaxed atmosphere, and is particularly famed for its musical festivals and street theatre. Music and festivals are a particular feature of Polish life generally, as is the strong influence of Roman Catholicism.

There is quite a high rate of robbery, theft and other types of crime in Poland, with tourists and foreign nationals often being the targets.

Read more about this country

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