Sunday, July 6, 2008

US wants Poles to visit, spend lots of money

US wants Poles to visit, spend lots of money
By ZUZIA DANIELSKI | Associated Press Writer
12:36 PM EDT, June 30, 2008
WARSAW, Poland - Time to shop until you drop across the Atlantic, the U.S. embassy says. In an unusual appeal, the United States is enticing Poles to visit and spend money this summer in hopes of propping up its faltering economy. The campaign comes as the Polish currency hit a historic high -- reaching 2.1194 zloty to the dollar on Monday.

"When you visit the States, bring an extra suitcase so you can return to Poland with a suitcase full of new items," U.S. Ambassador to Poland, Victor Ashe, is quoted as saying on the embassy's Web site.

The invitation is a sea change in bilateral relations. For most of the 20th century, impoverished Poles traveled to the United States in search of any possible job. Now they are being seen as a source of increased revenue.

The idea was a Warsaw initiative, said embassy spokesman Chris Snipes. He was not sure whether similar promotions had been undertaken by other U.S. embassies around the world.

The Associated Press
While inviting Polish tourists, the embassy makes no mention of easing U.S. visa requirements for Poles. Warsaw, a staunch U.S. ally, has been demanding for years that the visa requirement be ended, along with the US$100 fee for the lengthy procedure.

The embassy did note that the average waiting time for a visa was down to two days.

"The zloty is particularly strong and it's a good time to travel to the States," Snipes said.

WARSAW, Poland -- Not so long ago, the U.S. enjoyed something akin to a mythical status in Poland. Ronald Reagan was a hero, the dollar was king and Washington was a trusted guardian against Russia.

But that starry-eyed idealism has eroded, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the tough stance Poland has taken in negotiating a missile defense deal with Washington.

The two allies announced Wednesday that they agreed tentatively to base American missile interceptors in Poland, part of a planned U.S. missile shield against Iran. But contentiousness that surfaced over nearly 18 months of negotiations belied the fact that the U.S. was in talks with one of its closest friends in Europe.

"Many problems in the bilateral relationship became apparent during the missile defense talks," said Maria Wagrowska, a security expert with the Warsaw-based Center for International Relations. "And they are not only political _ they are also psychological."

She and other analysts agree that if the U.S. had tried to get a deal before the Iraq war, it would have been much easier.

Today, Polish politicians feel burned by the Bush administration, largely because Warsaw's staunch military support for the U.S. war in Iraq failed to win substantial contracts for Polish companies in Iraq's reconstruction, as many here had expected.

"Poland took an idealistic approach when it decided to support the U.S. in Iraq," Wagrowska said. "Now there is a much more reasonable, commercial approach because of the disappointment that we didn't earn anything in Iraq."

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