Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Hiroshima's Healing Hug

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Uganda Terror Trial: Five jailed for life for 2010 Al-Shabaab World Cup Bombings

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

Obama in Hiroshima and Austria's close call (part 1)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

French labour strikes, raids on Google and McDonald's (part 2)

Read more

REPORTERS

Ukraine: Searching for missing people in Donbass

Read more

REVISITED

Video: What remains of the Gezi movement in Turkey?

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Euro 2016: France readies for kick off

Read more

ENCORE!

Anne A-R : The people beyond the numbers: A photographic manifesto from the migrant trail

Read more

ENCORE!

Video: Ken Loach wins his second Palme d'Or in Cannes

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

2016-05-27 Argentina

President Mauricio Macri’s clean break with Argentina’s ‘Kirchnerite’ past

Since Mauricio Macri took office last December, a lot has changed in Argentina. In just a few months, the new president has made a clean break with the country's Kirchnerite past...

Read more

2016-05-26 Spain

Spain: Employees denounce their working conditions in Catalonia's abattoirs

In Spain, anger is boiling over in Catalonia's abattoirs. Spain is Europe's second-largest producer of pork but is facing stiff competition from around the world. As a result,...

Read more

2016-05-25 Liberia

Liberia prepares to take full control of its security

At the end of June, Liberia will retake full control of its own security. For the past thirteen years, the UN's peacekeeping force, UNMIL, has supported the country's police and...

Read more

2016-05-24 Lebanon

Video: Christian NGO brings Syrian refugees to Italy

In Italy, the community of Sant'Egidio, a Christian NGO, is setting up humanitarian corridors to bring Syrian refugee families from Lebanon to Italy. At the beginning of May,...

Read more

2016-05-23 Tunisia

Tunisia steps up security measures to reassure tourists

In Tunisia, the tourist season is just beginning. Since last year's deadly terror attacks on the Bardo museum in Tunis and a hotel in Sousse, which targeted tourists, the sector...

Read more