- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 20, 2001

WARSAW A coalition of staunchly pro-European former communists and socialists took over the reins of power in Poland yesterday as the largest European Union (EU) candidate country tries to revive its stalled membership talks.

"Poland has no other alternatives than joining the European Union," Leszek Miller said after being sworn in as prime minister in a presidential palace ceremony. "I will do everything so Poland becomes a member of the EU as quickly as possible under the best terms."

The other 15 ministers in Mr. Miller's coalition of the ex-communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), the socialist Labor Union (UP) and the Polish Peasants Party also were sworn into office by President Aleksander Kwasniewski.

Under Poland's constitution, the government is now empowered to act but must be confirmed by the parliament within two weeks. It is expected to do so easily in a vote next Thursday, as the coalition partners have a majority in the 460-member lower house with 258 seats.

With voters unhappy about a slowing economy and botched social reforms, Mr. Miller's SLD and UP partner nearly won the Sept. 23 ballot outright.

The conservative Solidarity-AWS government of former Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek, which formally resigned office when the new parliament convened earlier in the day, was crushed in the election and failed to win any seats.

Although the orientation of the government is shifting from right to left, the foreign policy priorities of the NATO member and EU candidate are unlikely to change.

Mr. Miller has signaled he intends to revitalize the pace of EU accession talks, which had slowed in the run-up to the election.

He wants the talks completed next year so Poland can be among the first ex-communist countries to join the European Union in 2004.

"Poland should become a member of the big European power or we will wander to the periphery of technological and social progress, and European civilization," said Mr. Miller.

EU officials had grown concerned that Poland had slipped behind in the entry talks, and welcomed the emergence of a staunchly pro-European government in Warsaw.

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