Apparently Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has called February 8 the happiest day of his life. What happened on February 8? Well, whilst we in UK were contemplating Cameron’s EU Houdini act – a week ago his strategy with the Community seemed entirely doomed, whereas now it may present a slightly better prospect – Poland was quietly celebrating a windfall of €105.8b, €4b more than for the previous 7 year period in an overall EU budget cut by €38b. Nice work. However, Polish President Komorowski has rightly warned this is Poland’s last chance to catch up with more developed EU nations: from 2020 she’ll be a net contributor to the EU.
I noticed the effect of this EU funding for myself the summer before last. Travelling out on my own by train to the local town where my in-laws live – Marzena and the kids had gone on ahead – I decided to walk from Krzeszowice station to the local village where we were invited for lunch. So, along quiet roads through fields, past small enterprises, across a disused single gauge railtrack, and onto a main road. And then, out of the corner of my eye, I spied a sign attached to a telegraph pole. Looking up, my Polish stretched far enough to tell me it announced EU funding for the local highways, and for an astonishing amount. I lost count of the number of “0″s: I’m sure it was at least 7, though the amount may have been in złoty.
Poland needs this. Not to give too much away, Polska Dotty ends with Marzena and me leaving the country via what we termed the “boom-boom-boom” motorway, the main road from Krakow through Wroclaw to the border at Zgorzelec, first laid by the Germans, and bumpily showing its age (hence our epithet). I haven’t travelled it myself for a while, but know most of it has been relaid since. In general, though, Poland’s roads have a lot of catching up to do: their parlous state is said to hold back Polish growth considerably.
So these next 7 years are indeed a magnificent opportunity for further improvement. I fully expect to be greeted by a flock of planning signs, nailed to telegraph poles, announcing this or that EU funded project, on future trips to Poland. And what a benefit a wide network of decent roads will be to the country. The Poles just need to be careful not to get involved in any further cartels or other anti-competitive practices in relation to these projects, as happened recently. With their reduced budget, no doubt the EU will need no excuse to suspend roadbuilding funds earmarked for Poland, once again.
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