(A)symmetry in economic relations?: German–Polish integration in the EU single market

Dagmara Jajesniak- Quast

Introduction

Economic integration can be viewed as a process, as a state or as a goal. The integration of the German and Polish markets, as part of a single European market, is a process that began long before Poland’s accession to the European Union in 2004. The level of integration so far achieved is a state that we can assess here and now. However, in the context of German-Polish economic relations integration can also be understood as a goal - including the goal of monetary union, for instance, which in the absence of Polish adoption of the euro has not yet been achieved. A further goal might be to put the countries’ economic relations on an equal footing - i.e. to make them as symmetrical as possible. Is it possible that this goal has already been achieved?

I shall consider in this chapter the extent to which German-Polish integration within the EU single market has been achieved. Thus, the interdependences between Germany and Poland will be analysed mainly at a national level. Are economic relations between the two countries balanced and symmetrical? Or is there too great an asymmetry, making an equal relationship out of the question? A definition of economic integration within the EU single market will serve to answer these questions. From such a definition, key criteria relevant to the assessment of the state of German-Polish relations will be extracted.

The single market is defined as a delimited economic area characterised by the free movement of goods, services, capital and people (Wagener & Eger, 2014: 15). We can speak of a symmetry in mutual economic relations only if the exchange of goods, services, capital and people between Germany and Poland takes place on a similar quantitative and qualitative level. Thus, for this analysis, it will be essential to consider the four freedoms of the EU single market. In assessing the state of German-Polish integration within the single market, I focus on the four factors of barrier-free exchange, and particularly on cross-border trade, foreign direct investment and the free movement of workers between Germany and Poland. For a symmetrical economic relationship between the two countries, it is important that foreign trade is balanced, levels of FDI are comparable and labour migration is similar. Qualitative aspects are similar structures in the exchange of goods, comparable aims for FDI and the qualification of workers. Then I examine how those countries’ economic relations that constitute the dependent variable in this study are influenced by the three explanatory categories discussed in this book: the historical legacy, asymmetry and interdependence.

The historical legacy concerns the shared history of Germany and Poland, and the assumption that historical patterns in economic activity between the two countries are reproduced (Wittenberg, 2015). This legacy can serve both as a barrier and as an incentive to mutual relations. Interdependence between Germany and Poland is visible in many areas, and economic relations have for many years served as a prime example.

The third category, asymmetry, is essential for this analysis, since an asymmetrical relationship in the economic field can bring positive results for both sides. Asymmetry is understood as an imbalance between two countries, and arises when there is a clear and relatively stable discrepancy between their respective capacities (Womack, 2016: 7). I examine asymmetry in relation to the three identified factors: cross-border trade, Foreign Direct Investment and the free movement of workers.

 
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