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Poland Rejoins the IBRD, bringing it to 150 Member Countries

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Zbigniew Karcz, Director of the Foreign Department of the Ministry of Finance of Poland signs the Articles of Agreement, making Poland the 150th member of the World Bank  

When delegates from Poland signed the Articles of Agreement on June 27th 1986, Poland officially became the 150th member country of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. A milestone for both the Bank and Poland, this act opened new lines of communication and aid between the two parties. Yet the act had a ring of familiarity to it. Over 50 years before, on January 10th 1946, Poland became the 31st member country of the World Bank.

Poland participated in the Bretton Woods conference that created the World Bank in 1944 and two years later they would sign the Articles of Agreement.  Poland applied for a $600 million loan to develop their economy in October 1946, and a smaller loan in spring of 1947 for the coal mining industry. As a result, the first mission the Bank ever sent abroad was to Poland in June 1947. At the time, it was known that the mission was only a fact-finding mission, and not a precursor to any loan approvals.

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 A letter outlining the plan for the fact-finding mission which was sent to Poland in June 1947 [Archives Folder 1160486]

The two loans which Poland applied for were not realized; the Polish government and the Bank were unable to agree upon terms and the negotiations were abandoned in early 1948. Furthermore, Poland was concerned with a section in the Bank's Second Annual Report which discussed revitalizing German industry and the work of a technical team, which was sent to analyze Germany's Ruhr coal fields. The Polish delegation argued that Germany was not a member of the Bank, and put forth a resolution asking for strict interpretation of the Bank's Articles of Agreement, which promise aid exclusively for the benefit of members and the enterprises within their territories. The resolution was not adopted by the Board, and Germany continued to be considered a special case.

On March 14th, 1950 Poland became the first country to withdraw its membership. The Ambassador to Poland, the Honorable J. Winiewicz, wrote that the Bank had violated its statutory requirements in that it had not contributed to the reconstruction of nations ravaged by war, but had instead "adapted its policy entirely to the needs and directions of the United States Government to the detriment of the other countries." The letter stated that Poland had been denied a loan solely because the country would not accede to the so-called Marshall Plan, which "had as its aim the subordination of Europe to the United States and the rebuilding of the war potential of Germany. Today there can be no possible doubt as to the injurious political and economic results of this Plan." President Eugene Black responded: "The statements in your letter in explanation of the action of the Polish Government cannot be accepted. The Bank's Annual Reports and other statements to its members and the public demonstrate that the Bank's operations have been conducted in accordance with the provisions of the Articles of Agreement."

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The Polish government in Exile sent an appeal for assistance to the "Free World" from their headquarters in London [Archives Folder 1160486] 

Thirty-one years later, on November 10th 1981, a Polish delegation met with President Clausen to present a letter of application for entry into the Bank. According to the memo titled POLAND - Meeting of the Polish Delegation with Mr. Clausen (Archives folder 1160486), "[Zbigniew Karcz] recalled that Poland had been trying to re-enter the Bank since 1956" though all of their efforts to that point were not successful. Unfortunately, this application would similarly fail, since in December of that year the Polish military declared martial law. This "military junta" lasted more than 18 months, during which the World Bank had little choice but to reject the application.

Poland's final application for membership was submitted in February of 1985. As the application moved forward, Mr. Karcz informed the Bank that Poland's primary concerns were the industry, agriculture and energy sectors. In anticipation of Polish re-entry, the Bank began to analyze the requirements for the revitalization of these sectors. With the application for membership and recovery plans in motion, the rest of the process went smoothly and Poland became a member of the Bank once more.

For more information concerning the above records and images (or any of the Archives holdings) please contact us via the Access to Information website.  Researchers may also be interested in additional published information on this topic.

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This feature is produced by the World Bank Group Archives to highlight the World Bank's contributions to development.

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