Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Multilateralist Macron is the anti-Trump at UN General Assembly

Read more

FOCUS

Rio mired in economic crisis a year after hosting Olympics

Read more

ENCORE!

Elizabeth Strout: 'There’s something emotionally truthful about my characters'

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Polish foreign minister: Macron's comments on Poland 'were not necessary'

Read more

THE OBSERVERS

The controversial colonial statue in Senegal; and the centuries-old town in Turkey being destroyed by the govt

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

End of an era: Toys 'R' Us files for bankruptcy

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'We aren't ready' for a second vote in Kenya and flip-flopping on climate change

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Another Hurricane? It's Maria's turn. And, when's your printer going to stop working?

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

DR Congo: New report says army worked with militias to massacre hundreds in Beni

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

2017-09-19 Americas

Rio mired in economic crisis a year after hosting Olympics

A state of "financial calamity" was declared in Rio de Janeiro just before it hosted the August 2016 Olympic Games. Salaries for public servants went unpaid and funding was...

Read more

2017-09-18 Asia-pacific

Rohingyas crowd into makeshift camps in Bangladesh after fleeing Burma

On the border between Burma and Bangladesh, the exodus of Rohingya people continues. In less than a month, more than 400,000 of them have crossed the border into neighbouring...

Read more

2017-09-15 Africa

Violent youth gangs spread terror in Abidjan

In Ivory Coast, violent youth gangs are spreading terror across the economic capital Abidjan. For several weeks now, these groups of delinquents - some as young as ten - have...

Read more

2017-09-14 Middle East

War in Yemen: Are Western weapons being used against civilians?

Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia has been leading a coalition of Arab states waging war in Yemen to overthrow the Houthi rebels, a pro-Iran Shiite militia which controls the...

Read more

2017-09-13 Europe

How migrants struggle to cross the Italy-France border

France has pledged to take in 30,000 migrants, currently in Greece or Italy, by the end of 2017. But so far, fewer than 2,000 are believed to have been relocated to France. At...

Read more