Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Poland: In the Euro+ Pact there are only pluses, not financial commitments*

Todor Litovski*, July 22, 2011

We offer you here an interview with H.E. Leszek Hensel, ambassador of Poland in Bulgaria, taken by our colleague from the newspaper AzBuki Todor Litovski*. As of July 1st Poland took over the Presidency of the European Union, which is why it is important to know Warsaw's position on key European issues. Furthermore, Poland has proved itself as a country whose word is being heard in the EU and who has already stated its ambitious plans for the Presidency. euinside, not for the first time, pays special attention to this country because it is a wonderful example how a former communist country, a new member state, can quickly catch up with the old member states and is constantly proving itself as an active and responsible member of the European Union.

Todor Litovski: Your Excellency, Poland joined the Euro+ Pact as a country which is not a member of the euro area. What pluses do you expect from this step?

Leszek Hensel: The participation in the Euro+ Pact does not mean additional financial commitments for Poland. It also does not mean mandatory harmonisation of corporate tax, which some experts are afraid of. According to the European Treaties, this issue is part of member states' sovereignty. This is mainly about imposing high standards of financial discipline and about coordinating economic policies in all member states. Covering a large part of these requirements will not be a problem for Poland.

Todor Litovski: The country is taking over the Presidency of the EU on July 1st. What are the priorities of the Polish Presidency?

Leszek Hensel: Our main task is to try and answer the question - what is the European Union that we want and to invest efforts to make it as we want it to look like. Since the very beginning of our EU membership we have strongly concentrated on the need to improve European countries' energy security. The energy crisis of January 2008, which hit Bulgaria severely, showed the need for this.

On the other hand, the economic crisis showed that the EU in general is not provided in the best possible way against the effects of similar emergencies. Fortunately, Poland was one of the few countries that succeeded in evading the pernicious impact of the crisis over our economy. Based on this experience we would like to undertake measures to enhance EU's internal market. We think that there is unused potential for growth of the European economy.

Todor Litovski: Which are the stable areas of Polish economy?

Leszek Hensel: In spite of the global crisis the situation of the Polish economy is good. Unlike other countries, in 2009 Poland avoided recession. With its 1.7% economic growth Poland was an "oasis" on Europe's map. The registered 3.8% growth of GDP was also one of the best indicators in the Community. These positive results were achieved thanks to the stable internal market and, in the same time, show that Polish economy has a solid base for permanent growth.

Todor Litovski: In which areas cooperation between our two countries is the most promising?

Leszek Hensel: Poland and Polish firms have a rich experience in using structural funds. This is why we see chances for deepening of cooperation precisely in this area of business relations. Using the experience and effective technological solutions, which the Polish side can offer and the need of information for the local market, which is an advantage for Bulgarian companies, consortia can be established. They would increase the chances for successful projects, financed with EU funds.

Todor Litovski: Are there areas in which Bulgarian experts are welcome in Poland?

Leszek Hensel: Following the opening up of the labour market in the EU Polish entrepreneurs and specialists are looking for new opportunities for profits abroad. As a result their jobs in Poland are being taken by new professionals who migrate from other countries, including Bulgaria. In certain areas there is a deficit of workers. For instance in the area of construction, food production and gastronomy. Work and decent wages can be expected in Poland by IT specialists, engineers, qualified workers and even teachers of popular languages. It is worth noting that, thanks to their good incomes, computer specialists remain in the country, refusing proposals from foreign employers like Germany.

Todor Litovski: How is science funded in Poland - via the budget, via projects or with money from the business?

Leszek Hensel: With money for science from the public budget in March this year has been created the National Scientific Centre. It allocates the money for fundamental research on a competition basis. According to the plan the budget of this new institution, currently at the amount of 300mn zloty (approx. 75mn euros), will be increased to 1.5bn zloty (approx. 375mn euros). It is important to know that 20% of the centre's budget will be allocated to support young scientists who are yet to begin their carriers.

Science is also funded with money by regional governments. Recently one of the Polish municipalities decided to allocate 53mn zloty (13mn euros) from the Regional Development programme for several projects in the area of innovation, research and teaching. Thanks to the EU funds Polish science is becoming more competitive.

For example, currently the biggest public university in the south-east of Poland has realised several projects with EU funds, worth 500mn zloty (125mn euros). In the framework of this initiative a Centre for Marketing of Foods will be created together with a Centre for Microelectronics and Nanotechnologies.

*This interview has been shortened from its original, the title has been changed by euinside. It has been published by euinside in Bulgarian on June 1st