Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

IN THE PAPERS

'Requiem for a recorder'

Read more

DEBATE

Pakistan's Political Turmoil: Can Imran Khan's PTI Party Depose the Government?

Read more

DEBATE

Pakistan's Political Turmoil: Can Imran Khan's PTI Party Depose the Government? (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Racism, riots and police violence: USA under scrutiny

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

"The pen is mightier than the sword"

Read more

FOCUS

Israel's minorities and military service

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Russia targets McDonald's over tensions with West

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Ebola: Liberian authorities admit 17 patients are missing

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

'New York Post' slammed for publishing Foley execution images

Read more

Our Focus programme brings you exclusive reports from around the world. From Monday to Friday at 7.45 am Paris time.

FOCUS

FOCUS

Latest update : 2010-10-18

EU funds Polish infrastructure

Poland may be celebrating its new-found position as the EU's economic growth champion, but its infrastructure lags far behind the developed European country it has become in so many other respects. Poor transport, and poor roads in particular, cost the economy millions each year. Now, with help from Brussels, a programme is underway to equip Poland with a motorway network in record time.

Poland may be celebrating its newfound position as the EU's economic growth champion, but its infrastructure lags far behind the developed European country it has become in so many other respects. Poor roads in particular cost the economy millions each year.

"Our roads are a tragedy," says trucker Jerzy Urbanik, just back from Dunkirk, France. "They're the butt of all jokes". As yet, no motorway reaches Warsaw - the stretch between Poznan and Lodz ends 116 kilometres from the capital.

As this one of the main freight routes from Europe to Russia, much of the Berlin-Warsaw road is a seemingly endless line of trucks moving at around 50 kilometres an hour - and that's when they aren't queuing at the numerous traffic lights.

The Polish government is working to remedy the situation, with an ambitious programme to build more than 800 kilometres of motorway in time for the Euro 2012 Football Championship, and more after that.

Of more than 8 billion euro earmarked for the 2012 deadline, 6 billion is European Union money - mainly from EU structural funds or the European Investment Bank.

Eyebrows were raised,though, when the government granted contracts for two sections of the Lodz to Warsaw motorway to the Chinese firm, COVEC.

"Their bid came in at 20 percent lower than the next valid bid," says Wojciech Malusi, head of the Polish Roadbuilders Chamber of Commerce. "Either someone is helping them, or they are going to pay their subcontractors extremely badly". Moreover, Malusi points out, Beijing would never entertain a bid from a European firm to build a motorway in China under the same conditions applied to COVEC. He compained to the European Commission.

The Commission replied that while there is no agreement requiring EU governments to entertain tenders from Chinese firms, it is up to individual states to refuse them. Warsaw preferred to let COVEC into the market - partly, by its own admission, in the hopes that it would force local contractors to lower their own prices.

As to the suspicions that COVEC put in a lower bid thanks to subsidies, the Commission states: "It is not possible for the time being to use existing EU legislation on trade defence to target subsidies for construction services granted by third countries."

This is the first time a Chinese firm has won this kind of public engineering contract in Europe. For Malusi, COVEC is using Poland to break a taboo: "They'd never have won a contract in France or Italy, say, if they hadn't already built a road in Poland. If there's a precedent, it will be easier in future. Poland is opening the gate to them... But they won't finish it on time, no way", he grins.

COVEC, for its part, denies allegations of dumping and insists its bid "is a rational price at which we are able to still earn a profit". The firm admits that it will use some Chinese labour, but denies accusations that it is taking jobs away from Polish workers. "With the money it saves, the Polish government can build more projects, creating additional job opportunities"...

By Gulliver CRAGG

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2014-08-19 Gaza Strip

Israel's minorities and military service

We look at how Israel's religious minorities feel about military service. At the end of last month - three weeks after the latest conflict with militants in Gaza started - Israel...

Read more

2014-08-20 tourism

Spain's El Hierro to become world's first self-powered island

Spain's Canary Isles are a popular tourist destination offering year-round sun, sea and sand. But they could be about to gain a new string to their bow as a sustainable energy...

Read more

2014-08-18 religion

South Korea: The Catholic Church's Asian Tiger

We head to South Korea, where Pope Francis has just wrapped up a five-day visit. A pope hadn't set foot in the country for a quarter of a century. Yet Catholicism is thriving in...

Read more

2014-08-15 Thailand

Buddhism: Growing number of Westerners seek out spiritual retreat

Buddhism, which originated some 2,500 years ago in South Asia, is attracting more followers every day. Now even a growing number of Westerners are giving up their worldly...

Read more

2014-08-14 Ebola

Liberia struggles to cope with Ebola epidemic

In West Africa, the Ebola virus has killed more than 1,000 people across four countries, with Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone worst hit. The Liberian government has accepted...

Read more