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The Warsaw Voice » Law » November 19, 2008
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Roads to Far, Far Away
November 19, 2008   
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Every new infrastructure minister on taking office tells us soothing stories of long, safe, journeys by environmentally-friendly motorways and expressways. Sweet prospects of quick and peaceful jaunts to work or a weekend visit to your beloved granny in the mountains sound more like a fairy tale than the Government National Road Construction Plan for 2008-2012. Can this beautiful dream come true?

Hard reality: money
It should come as no surprise that first on the to-do list was drawing up a huge dedicated road budget. To wit the government National Road construction Plan for 2008-2012 (adopted by the government on Sept. 25, 2008) earmarked zl.121 billion for this purpose, including over zl.31 billion for 2009-an increase of zl.10 billion over the amount allocated for this year. On top of that Poland gets zl.35 billion from European Union funds for road construction and zl.10 billion for railway modernization provided all environmental requirements are fulfilled. This could throw a spanner in the works as environmental protection standards in the EU are tough and must be met to guarantee EU funding for road and rail projects. Just think of the controversy surrounding Rospuda in the context of hundreds of hectares of asphalt coating the lush Polish countryside.

Law construction
Actually, when compared with the poor condition of Poland's roads, this year's tally on the legislation front gives you the impression that the majority of construction work took place in the parliament building. So, the to-do (and done) list is starting to look positively impressive now that streamlining the legal process is added to budgeting for success. A camel can normally pass more easily through the eye of a needle than you can drive down the superhighway of Polish road legislation.

Investment decisions
Key legislation affecting permit and compensation issues entered into force on Sept. 10, 2008 in the form of an "amendment to the Act on particular principles in preparing and implementing investments in public roads and amendments in other acts." The Act introduces new constructs, such as road building permits, and new rules for compensation relating to compulsory purchase orders slapped on properties that have to be sacrificed. The road building permit simplifies the bureaucratic process by integrating the road alignment decision with the building permit into one construction decision. In consequence, there is now one administrative decision to determine the criteria for "investment decisions," as defined in Directive 2003/35/EC. To speed matters up, decisions will now be issued within three months, not five as previously.

As regards compensation for properties compulsorily purchased, the Act importantly gives a definition of persons qualifying for compensation and sets a maximum deadline for determining and paying it. The persons concerned now have more time to surrender their property, too-four months instead of 30 days.

Green roads
One of the driving factors behind the Polish political will to adapt national laws to European regulations is undoubtedly the desire to reach inside bulging bruxellois pockets for generous funding for infrastructure projects. With this in mind, two new Acts related to environmental protection are set to come into force on Nov. 15, 2008. The more important of these is the "Act on access to information on the environment and environmental protection, on community participation in environmental protection and on assessment of environmental impact" of Oct. 3, 2008. This Act determines new rules for environmental assessments, increases participation by society at large in environmental protection and appoints new administrative authorities to perform related tasks. High hopes rest in particular on the General Directorate for Environmental protection, set up to accelerate the process of obtaining environmental decisions needed for road construction.

Now, with new budget and law regulations in place, we just need Tusk to wave his magic wand and let massive construction works begin! Better 18 years late than never…

Jarosław Grzywiński
Katarzyna Sulimierska
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