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The Warsaw Voice » National Voice » August 26, 2010
Austria in Poland
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Positive Experience
August 26, 2010   
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Austria’s ambassador to Poland, Dr. Herbert Krauss, talks to Ewa Hancock.

Could you describe your diplomatic career prior to your move to Poland?
In the Austrian Foreign Service we are generalists. I had my first postings in Tokyo and Baghdad and then served in the Foreign Ministry’s Middle Eastern Department and later in the Office of the Secretary General for Foreign Affairs. After four years in London as Deputy Head of Mission I took over the Berlin Liaison Office of the then Austrian Embassy in Bonn. Back in Vienna after nine years, I became head of the Western and Central European Department of the Austrian Foreign Ministry, which also deals with bilateral Austrian-Polish relations. In that capacity I was also Austrian National Coordinator for the Central European Initiative where I worked closely with my Polish colleagues. Last September I took over my present function in Warsaw.

Poland and Austria have a lot of common history. What in your opinion connects the two countries today?
Polish-Austrian relations go back a long way indeed. Memories of the times under Habsburg rule during the Polish partition are still very much present in Poland, particularly in the south, and, I am happy to say, on balance rather positive. There is a general feeling that even though we do not share a common border, we are cultural and historical neighbors. This is a good basis to build on. We managed to do this even during the rule of the communists when the Austrian Cultural Institute in Warsaw established in 1965 became a meeting point for Polish intellectuals and dissidents trying to stay in touch with developments in the free West. The present Austrian Cultural Forum in Warsaw carries on this tradition as a bridge not only between our cultural scenes but also between our civil societies. In the same vein we opened a Consulate General in Cracow in 1991 which also serves as a Cultural Forum for the South of Poland. The background of our common history may also be one of the reasons why Austrian investors are so successful in this country. Another reason is certainly that after the fall of communism they were among the first to realize the enormous potential of the Polish market and quickly established good and lasting ties with their Polish business partners. Politically, the breakdown of communism brought big changes and opportunities for our two countries, which eventually regained their historical position in the center of Europe. This common geopolitical position also determines our respective foreign policies and offers us room for synergies which we are currently pursuing, like in the framework of the Eastern Partnership or the Danube Region Strategy. In this context our bilateral relations have intensified considerably with Poland’s EU membership not only between our capitals but also between Austrian provinces and Polish voivodships.

In which branches of the economy is Austrian-Polish cooperation most intense?
During the last few years Austrian companies have strengthened their presence on the Polish market; currently there are about 600 Austrian subsidiaries active in Poland. Since Poland’s accession to the EU the number of Austrian companies in Poland has almost doubled.

With an FDI stock of approximately 4.1 billion euros Austria is the ninth largest foreign investor in Poland. According to the latest official Austrian figures, Austrian subsidiaries employed 45,623 people in Poland in 2007. Correspondingly, there are about 50 Polish subsidiaries in Austria with a combined investment of roughly 240 million euros.

The presence of Austrian business in Poland reflects the core competences of Austrian industry: construction and infrastructure, energy and environmental technology. Austrian companies active in these sectors are renowned for their know-how, expertise and technological innovation and are therefore also successful on the Polish market.

Obviously, the global economic downturn in 2009 has also affected Austrian exports to Poland. We exported goods amounting to 2.45 billion euros, 25.2 percent less than the previous year. The main export products are traditionally electrical machines and appliances, boiler machinery, vehicles, traction engines, auto bodies, passenger vehicles, trucks and pulp and paper. Deliveries to Poland accounted for about 2.6 percent of all Austrian exports in 2009.

Current trade figures for 2010 indicate a healthy recovery. We therefore assume that this year’s exports will at least equal last year’s numbers and, given sufficient economic growth, Austrian companies will be able to increase their exports to Poland.

Can you give an example of an Austrian success story in Poland?
Fortunately, there is quite a number of success stories of Austrian companies in Poland. To name just a few of the most recent ones, I would like to mention the wooden fiberboard producer Kronospan, which opened a new factory in 2009 in Opole. The leading international paper and packaging group Mondi recently expanded their production site in ¦wiecie.

Numerous successful examples can be found in the real estate development sector. Warimpex Finanz und Beteiligungs AG, which is behind the two andel’s hotels in Cracow and £ód¼, continued their expansion with the opening of the Angelo’s in Katowice in 2010. Construction is well under way at the Poleczki Business Park in Warsaw, the largest business park in Poland; this is a joint venture of the two Austrian companies UBM Realitätenentwicklung AG and CA Immo International AG. The general contractor is the Austrian construction company Porr AG.

Additional success stories in the construction industry would include Alpine Bau GmbH, which is involved in the construction and renovation of stadiums in Warsaw, Gdañsk, Poznañ and Cracow. Strabag AG is the consortium leader for the construction of the bypass in Wroc³aw; they are also building parts of the A2 freeway and the S7 expressway. Another major player when it comes to road infrastructure is Teerag-Asdag AG, which is working on the southern bypass of Warsaw.

The list would not be complete without Austrian banks and insurance companies such as Raiffeisen, Uniqa and Compensa, which have become well established members of the business community in Poland.

Last but not least let me mention an example from the environmental technology sector. A joint venture of Wienstrom GmbH, Burgenländische Elektrizitätswirtschafts-Aktiengesellschaft (BEWAG) and Raiffeisen Energy is currently building a wind farm in Sêpopol with a capacity of 60 MW.

Poles are increasingly willing to travel the world. Are Poles becoming important clients for Austrian tourism?
Most definitely. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain the Austrian tourism industry has, like the Austrian economy, been turning its focus increasingly towards our eastern and southeastern neighbors, without neglecting our traditional markets. The Polish market is a very promising one for Austria, since it is one of the biggest in Central Europe and catching up steadily in terms of purchasing power. Just to give you an idea of its growing importance: from 2006 to 2009 the number of Poles visiting Austria more than doubled and during the winter season 2009/2010 Poland ranked ninth in terms of country of origin. These numbers suggest that Austrian tourism operators are paying great attention to the needs of Polish tourists, which in return is attracting an ever growing number of visitors from Poland to Austria. But apart from the economic impact generated, there is also a considerable human relations benefit. Thanks to the increased personal contacts between Austrians and Poles over the last years the image we have from each other is increasingly based on positive personal experience, which is so important to our lives under the common European roof.
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