Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

DEBATE

Pakistan Protests: Democracy put to the test (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Pakistan Protests: Democracy put to the test

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Is Carla Bruni against a political comeback for Sarkozy?

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'iVIOLATED'

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

France's Iliad considers fresh offer for T-Mobile

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Back to school!

Read more

WEB NEWS

USA: Thousands pay tribute to Michael Brown

Read more

ENCORE!

The French Maestro of Soul

Read more

FOCUS

US tobacco giants want lion's share of e-cigarette business

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

2014-09-01 USA

US tobacco giants want lion's share of e-cigarette business

Today we're looking at the increasingly popular e-cigarette. In France, an estimated 1.5 million people puff on them on a regular basis: the market was worth around 275 million...

Read more

2014-08-29 refugees

France welcomes Iraqi Christian refugees

When jihadists from the Islamic State organisation swept into northern Iraq, the French government pledged to facilitate asylum for Iraqi Christians who had fled their homes in...

Read more

2014-08-28 corruption

Mothers and children leaving Honduras at all costs

More than 52,000 migrant children from Central America and Mexico are still stranded in the United States, waiting for their legal situation to be resolved before being...

Read more

2014-08-27 refugees

Video: Milan is starting point for Syrian refugees’ European odyssey

Italy's financial and fashion capital Milan has become an established transit point for refugees, especially for those escaping the brutal civil war in Syria, who make their way...

Read more

2014-08-26 unrest

Far-right ‘Russian Jihad’ fighters cross into Ukraine

Since the beginning of the conflict between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country, Moscow has repeatedly denied sending troops or weapons to help the...

Read more