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The Warsaw Voice » Other » July 1, 2009
France in Poland
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The French Connection
July 1, 2009   
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Daniel Maitre, economic and commercial counselor at the French embassy in Poland, talks to Ewa Hancock.

France is the biggest foreign investor in Poland. Can it maintain this position in a time of crisis?
It's true that France is the largest foreign investor in Poland. This is due to its long presence in many of Poland's economic sectors and reflects a deep faith in Poland's long-term development. If you look at it like that, the present crisis is important, of course, but less so if you look at it from a certain perspective. French companies have lasting connections to Poland that momentary changes in the economic situation cannot jeopardize. French investors are present in Poland today, and they will be here tomorrow.

What is attractive about Poland to a French investor?
First of all, its market of 38 million consumers. Consumption by Polish households has been growing steadily at an annual rate of 5 percent since the country joined the European Union. The crisis has reduced households' demand but not destroyed it. Poland is resisting any dangerous trends. That's very positive. French companies operating in Poland see this as a major strength of this country. It means that investments are profitable and don't rely solely on exports.

Apart from that, regardless of the crisis, Poland still has a numerous, young, qualified and motivated work force. Polish general and technical universities are of a good standard, thanks to which Polish specialists can be directly employed in jobs requiring high qualifications. They can work as managers, engineers, and skilled laborers. This is confirmed by French companies that I'm in touch with. I would also add that the cost of labor, despite an increase in pay in 2005-2008, is still very competitive.

Poland's central location in Central Europe and the fact that it borders on eastern markets increases the interest of foreign investors who want to establish a presence in those countries.

Poland also attracts investors with the prospect of the Euro 2012 soccer championships. The project has aroused great interest among investors, who want to take part in building the infrastructure for this sports event. French companies are preparing to propose specific projects in areas such as security, ticket sales and stadium management.

What are the greatest barriers to investing in Poland?
Generally speaking, Poland is a country where foreign investors can feel at home. If we're talking about what could be improved, the first thing that springs to mind is infrastructure. It really is easier to develop business operations-whether you are foreign or Polish-if you have a better developed road and railway network. The Polish authorities are well aware of this and have an ambitious investment program for both these areas. In fact, Poland has established cooperation with France in this area. Another task is to improve the way the administration works. Administrative procedures are sometimes very slow, sometimes hard to understand, and at times they hamper investment in both public-private partnerships and traditional industrial operations. Despite these occasional difficulties, the Polish economy is hospitable to foreign investors.

What is France's approach to climate change and the problem of energy conservation?
France, like the whole of humanity, has to face the problem of climate change, which is a huge challenge for the world. At the national level, France has built its "climate plan" to include activities encompassing all the economic sectors and French people's everyday life with the aim of saving millions of tons of carbon dioxide every year. A system of civil-society consultation has been set up through the adoption of the Grenelle Environnement [environment round table] process, which has become the basis for new legal decisions. France has assumed that by 2020, 23 percent of its energy will come from renewable sources.

As for energy conservation, France primarily has to solve the problem of dispersed emissions produced in transport and residential areas. France has also adopted regulations concerning loans to enable the necessary work in this area to be carried out.
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