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Polish President slams government eurozone drive

Poland's President Lech Kaczynski has reaffirmed his opposition to joining the eurozone soon, warning that switching to the European single currency could harm the economy amid the current crisis.

"Adopting the euro is certainly not a cure-all for the ills caused by the crisis. On the contrary, in the face of global crisis and an economic slowdown, such a step would be highly risky for Poland," Mr Kaczynski said in an address to Parliament.

The conservative, eurosceptic Kaczynski has long sparred with his europhile, liberal Prime Minister Donald Tusk over plans to switch from the zloty, Poland's national currency, to the euro.

Mr Tusk has repeatedly underscored his determination to push ahead with the goal of adopting the euro in 2012, which Finance Minister Jan Rostowski has said would be a crucial way to protect the Polish economy.

Kaczynski, however, said that stance was deeply flawed.

"This goal is presented like a life-raft which would protect us from exchange-rate fluctuations. But does it really make sense to drop the zloty so soon, given that as a national currency it allows us to have an independent monetary policy?" Mr Kaczynski said. Sixteen members of the 27-nation European Union currently use the euro, with the European Central Bank overseeing the zone.

The monetary policies of non-eurozone countries are set by their own central banks.

Tusk's government is aiming to enter the European Exchange Rate Mechanism II this year, which is a crucial staging post for would-be eurozone members.

They are obliged to spend at least two years in the mechanism, which limits variations between their national currency and the euro to 15 per cent.

Kaczynski warned that membership of the mechanism would "entail restrictive budgetary and monetary policies".

"As a result, there would be additional brakes on economic growth and unemployment would continue to rise," he claimed.

According to a survey published in March, 53 per cent of Poles said they wanted to switch to the euro, while 38 per cent were opposed and nine percent had no opinion.

Having cast off communism in 1989, Poland joined the European Union in 2004 and vowed to adopt the euro as part of its accession deal. However, no deadline was set for the switch.

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