Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

ENCORE!

Seal on his new album 'Standards' and why he doesn't like texting

Read more

FOCUS

Video: Fate of transgender soldiers in US military remains uncertain

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'The End of German Stability'

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'Bad news for Merkel is bad news for Europe'

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Zimbabwean MPs set to start impeachment proceedings against Mugabe

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

US government sues to block AT&T-Time Warner merger

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Manson: Murder, mythology and mistaken identity

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Turkish adviser warns US forces may stay in Syria

Read more

THE DEBATE

Has Merkel still got it? German chancellor weakened as coalition talks collapse

Read more

FOCUS

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

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

2017-11-21 Americas

Video: Fate of transgender soldiers in US military remains uncertain

In July, US President Donald Trump announced on Twitter that he was re-instating a ban on transgender people serving in the military. Trump justified his shock decision by citing...

Read more

2017-11-20 Africa

From ecological disaster to small miracle in Mauritania

Mauritania is being invaded by typha, a thick type of plant that has sprung up and is growing all over the North African country, destroying other species and even forcing people...

Read more

2017-11-17 Emmanuel Macron

France's newest political party accused of 'old' methods

Six months after becoming France's youngest ever president, Emmanuel Macron is facing signs of rebellion and frustration from within his own party. Some 100 members, including...

Read more

2017-11-16 Africa

Why Anglophone separatists want independence in Cameroon

Over the past year, dozens of people have died in Cameroon fighting for the independence of an English-speaking area of the country, known as Ambazonia. Now their supporters are...

Read more

2017-11-15 Middle East

Middle East: Gaza's armed groups, a sticking point in Fatah-Hamas reconciliation

The process of reconciliation between the two rival Palestinian parties, Fatah and Hamas, is reaching a critical stage. Hamas is soon to hand over control of Gaza to the...

Read more