Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

AFRICA NEWS

Ebola virus: US to send 3,000 troops to West Africa

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Nigeria attack: Bomb blast in college in Kano

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Ebola: Lockdown brings Sierra Leone capital to a halt

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Sarkozy's political comeback: did he ever leave?

Read more

DEBATE

The World This Week

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Travel chaos: Air France pilots take industrial action

Read more

THE BUSINESS INTERVIEW

Christian Kastrop, Director of Policy Studies, OECD

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Ebola: UN Security Council unanimously passes resolution

Read more

ENCORE!

Author Kiran Desai on early success and the Booker Prize

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

2014-09-19 Russia

Ukraine's 'volunteer' battalions: Under Kiev's control?

Ukraine is offering temporary self-rule to areas of its eastern Donbass region currently controlled by separatists. It’s part of a ceasefire deal, but one that was virtually...

Read more

2014-09-18 children

Cleaning up Thailand's shady surrogacy industry

In the absence of rules, surrogacy has become a thriving - and shady - business in Thailand. But things could be about to change as a series of highly publicised cases have...

Read more

2014-09-17 referendum

Scottish referendum: Should I stay or should I go?

This Wednesday is the final day of campaigning before people living in Scotland vote on whether or not to leave the United Kingdom. Our correspondents in Scotland have been to...

Read more

2014-09-16 refugees

Italy: The search for missing migrants

As hundreds more migrants are feared dead in the Mediterranean, we're looking into the disappearance of many of those who do make it to Europe, hoping for a better life....

Read more

2014-09-15 refugees

Lebanon: Islamic State organisation advances on refugee camps

After Iraq and Syria, Lebanon appears to be the next theatre of operations for the radical Islamic State organisation. Arsal, a remote town on the Syrian border, has become the...

Read more