A higher education institute designed to promote the idea of a unified Europe was officially opened last week by Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski, just before the weekend referendum in which Poles voted by a large margin to join the European Union.
The Collegium Europaeum at Gniezno was established by the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan to popularise the idea of integrating and unifying nations while respecting cultural identity. Citizens from the EU and its future member states will attend the academy to gain a better understanding of the mentality, tradition and national psychology of other peoples.
The institute aims to equip students with the practical knowledge and skills they need to function within the EU. It offers international student groups interdisciplinary studies on European culture.
Its location symbolises the long-lasting relationships between Poland and western European countries. The Gniezno academy will promote better Polish-German cooperation in an atmosphere of reconciliation and peaceful neighbourly relations while contributing to a reduction in Polish-German prejudices.
Stanislaw Lorenc, the rector of Adam Mickiewicz, said: "We also intend to make Collegium Europaeum a centre of knowledge about the Polish diaspora in eastern and southern Europe. Its programmes will include Polish history, Polish literature and sociology. This should also attract foreign students."
The Collegium Europaeum is one of three manifestations of European cooperation and integration. The others are the Collegium Polonicum, on the border with Germany, and, most recently, the European Integration Centre at Poznan.
Adam Mickiewicz University dates from the 16th century. Bishop Jan Lubranski founded Poland's first institution of higher learning at Poznan in 1519. Later called the Lubranski Academy, it existed until 1780.
Although weakened, the institution has survived the ravages of war and reorganisation. It has been renamed the Adam Mickiewicz University in honour of the poet who wrote the national epic Pan Tadeusz . The university gradually began to gain recognition and esteem in Poznan and the rest of Poland.
It has more than 2,600 faculty and nearly 50,000 students, about 300 of them foreign. Student numbers increased fourfold from 1990 to 2002.