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The Warsaw Voice » Comments » February 6, 2008
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From the news editor
February 6, 2008   
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The long-awaited National Stadium in Warsaw, where the Euro 2012 soccer tournament is due to kick off, is finally off the starting block. Well, almost. So far, all we have seen is a preliminary model.

Construction is scheduled to commence in two years and preparatory work should start soon. Things are also looking up for Euro 2012's other Polish venues in Wrocław and Gdańsk. Polish and Ukrainian officials are buoyantly optimistic that everything will be ready on time. The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), however, is considerably less sanguine. European soccer's governing body notes in its latest report that Poland and Ukraine have done precious little since being given the nod in April last year and even moots holding the event elsewhere. Transferring the championship to some wealthier UEFA member would be a kidney punch to Polish national pride.

There's nothing unusual about industrial unrest ringing in the year in Poland, especially after a promise-laden election campaign. Last year ended with a whole slew of occupational groups viewing the approval of a new budget as being as good a time as any to hold the powers that be to their pre-election undertakings. First doctors, then nurses, teachers, miners and finally customs officers began clamoring for higher salaries and legal reforms in areas like retirement benefits. This season's protests are already the largest and most intense in recent years and it does not look as if things are about to get better. The Civic Platform's (PO) declaration that "Poland is capable of producing an economic miracle" has clearly raised expectations. The government's only miracle so far has been to stave off a blockade of the country's major cities by truck drivers driven to distraction by having to wait days for customs clearances. The coming weeks will be a testing time for the PO-PSL (Polish People's Party) coalition.

The Polish economy is still going strong, with gross domestic product expected to grow 5.5 percent this year. Although this is a step down from the dizzy heights of last year's 6.5 percent, it is still streets ahead of most European countries. The European Commission has forecast an average growth of 2.4 percent for the European Union as a whole.
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