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A Capital in the Making
May 31, 2012   
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Michał Olszewski, deputy mayor of Warsaw, talks with Jolanta Wolska.

You are one of four deputy mayors of Warsaw. What are your duties?
I am responsible for the economic development of the city—mainly for entrepreneurship and concessions for taxis, transport, casino and liquor licenses. Also, I oversee land surveying and map making, low-income housing and redevelopment processes, the development of small and medium-sized enterprises and the R&D sector, especially universities and higher education institutions. I am responsible for managing the Vistula River, in particular flood control, as well as tourism and the recreational and environmental aspects of river management.

What is the population of Warsaw?
Officially, the population of Warsaw is just under 2 million, but the number is underestimated. We have many people from other parts of Poland working and living in Warsaw.

You are also responsible for European Union funds. What are these mainly used for?
Much of the EU funding has gone into improving roads and public transportation infrastructure as well as environmental projects, including our flagship project, the water treatment plant in the Białołęka district. There are also some smaller environmental infrastructure projects, and of course cultural and social projects. A lot of EU funds are spent on innovation in Warsaw, including R&D infrastructure and the transfer of technology to the economy.

Does the city also earmark funds for tourism?
That depends what you mean by tourism. For example, we spent funds on the Copernicus Science Center, which is not only a cultural project, but also attracts tourists. Nature preservation projects also attract tourists, including bike and walking trails, towers for birdwatching, and the work being conducted in the Warsaw zoo.

How do you see the work of the Warsaw Tourism Organization (WOT)?
It is a good initiative and one that is aimed in the right direction. We do not have many public-private partnerships in the city. WOT brings together many private companies and government institutions to work together. We started an experiment with WOT, of which we are the biggest member. By encouraging luxury hotels, existing conference facilities and public and private cultural institutions to work together, we have an excellent opportunity to redesign our tourism strategy for the capital.

Warsaw is very distinct in terms of tourism, and as a capital city it really needs to concentrate on the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Events) business to further enliven tourism. All European capital cities concentrate on attracting conferences.

The City of Warsaw has a lot of potential to attract tourists. How does it do that?
We have great spaces for various events, including music concerts. We have a great theater infrastructure for all kinds of performances. Two years ago Warsaw was voted the most popular destination for cultural tourism.

We are planning a special promotion campaign for taxis for the Euro 2012 championships. We have a very good taxi service operating in Warsaw, but we still need to eradicate a few dishonest operators. The campaign will tell visitors what to look for when catching a taxi. It is a problem that all major cities in the world have. We are increasing the number of checks, especially in areas like the airport, the central railway station, and the like. And we are changing the management of some city areas to make it impossible for illegal taxis to operate in the strategic tourist areas.

We are trying to make public transport more attractive by modernizing the tram rolling stock. We are building the second metro line, and car parks in the suburbs near the metro stations so that people don’t drive into the city. We have designed one common ticket for all transport methods, such as the bus, tram and metro. We are trying to meet the development needs of new office buildings being constructed with appropriate local infrastructure.

To make Warsaw’s roads safer for drivers and pedestrians, we are investing in traffic cameras to catch not only speeding drivers, but also those jumping a red light. We are synchronizing traffic lights and building traffic circles and bypasses.

And we will have the railway line operational between Warsaw’s Chopin Airport and the city center for the soccer championships. Initially, the trains will stop at the Warszawa Centralna railway station, and eventually at the ¦ródmie¶cie station. At the airport the station is near the old Terminal 1.
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