Polish guest: An ambassador from a new ally calls on Pittsburgh

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In Pittsburgh last week was Ryszard Schnepf, the ambassador of Poland to the United States, to provide an update on what he called "a new Poland" and to strengthen contacts with what he says are the some 900,000 Americans of Polish origin living in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Mr. Schnepf is a modern, professional, post-Communist Polish diplomat, having joined his country's foreign service in 1991, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact and the Communist Eastern European union, COMECON.

He cites the enormous progress that Poland has made in its modern incarnation, which is now safe in NATO from potential incursions from its powerful neighbors, Germany and Russia, and which has bright economic prospects based on its central location in Europe, its industrious workforce and membership since 2004 in the European Union. Its banking system is solid. It is able to borrow money on international markets at low rates, in contrast to what countries like Italy and Spain, not to mention Greece and Portugal, have to pay. Part of the reason for Poland's fiscal soundness is a constitutional cap on debt put in place in 1997, which limits it to a healthy 60 percent of gross domestic product.

Mr. Schnepf noted not only Poland's positive trade relationship with the United States -- $7 billion in 2012 -- but also its close defense relationship. It stands ready to participate in a missile defense system with the United States in Europe. It sent troops to Afghanistan, where it plans to stay until the United States withdraws its own forces, at the end of 2014.

What Poland would like from the United States now is that the new immigration bill being developed between the administration and Congress provide for visa-free entrance of Poles to the United States, a privilege that is extended to citizens of other allied nations.

Prospects for this improvement in relations look good and the measure would seem to make sense, although the general fate of immigration reform in Washington remains uncertain.

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