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The Warsaw Voice » Business » June 29, 2012
Business & Economy
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Poles Lauded as ‘Europe’s Champions’
June 29, 2012   
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In a report headlined The Miracle Next Door, Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine describes Poles as “Europe’s Champions” regardless of the result of the European football championships.

The article, which appeared in the run-up to Euro 2012, highlights Poland’s economic success story since the fall of communism. It contrasts Poland with other countries from the former Soviet bloc, including Ukraine, which together with Poland was the joint host of the football tournament. Poland comes out particularly well in such a comparison, say Der Spiegel writers Erich Follath and Jan Puhl. They describe the newly built National Stadium in Warsaw as not just a building but a symbol. They add, “With this marvelous stadium, Poland wants to show the world its new face and prove that it has overcome the shadows of the past: the crimes of the Nazis [who invaded Poland in World War II], Communist oppression and the chaotic capitalism of the period after the fall of communism.”

The writers refer to the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, when German invaders razed Warsaw to the ground while Soviet troops stood by, watching the besieged Polish capital from the very site where the National Stadium stands today.

Ten years after the war, Poland’s communist authorities built the predecessor of the National Stadium, the Dziesięciolecia (Tenth Anniversary) Stadium. Sloppily constructed, it symbolized the decay of communism until it was replaced by the new flagship stadium, the writers say.

Poland now sees itself as a pioneer and role model for other Eastern European countries, according to Follath and Puhl. “It wants to become a power in Europe and for Europe, thereby assuming what it has always believed to be its rightful place in the world.”

Der Spiegel highlights the fact that the economy in Poland is still booming. In 2009, Poland was the only country in Europe to experience economic growth (1.7 percent) and by last year, that figure had grown to 4.4 percent. “The country’s successes are on full display throughout Poland,” the article says. “The once-backward agricultural country has become a giant construction site where cranes dot the skylines of major cities and some already boast high-tech paradises. No matter who wins the European Championship, if growth trends in the last decades are any indicator, the Poles are already Europe’s champions.”

The article notes an “astonishing” development: the beginning of the end of a long-standing animosity between Poles and Germans, adding that Warsaw has for long been Germany’s biggest trading partner.

According to Der Spiegel, Ukraine today is to Poland what Poland used to be Germany. Since the end of the “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine the Ukrainian government no longer seems interested in shifting further to the West. Ordinary Ukrainians, on the other hand, are voting with their feet, coming to Poland in search of jobs, the writers say.


What I’m Proud of
Mariusz Błędowski, director of the Mielec branch of ARP SA:
The setting up and success of Poland’s first special economic zone (SEZ) is what I am truly proud of. The initiative, in the early 1990s, to set up a special economic zone in Mielec was a big challenge for this industrial city focused on a single industry. Time was short as the city was plunging into crisis. A large aircraft factory, the main source of livelihood for the local population, was collapsing and the city needed a rescue plan. But the method chosen—setting up a special economic zone—was to be an experiment on a national scale. First, a pilot project had to be carried out and legislation adopted to launch special economic zones in Poland. The fact that this was done in three years, when the government changed three times because it was the start of political and economic transformation in Poland, also reflects the scale of the challenge. But the main reason why I am proud is that the Special Economic Zone Euro-Park Mielec has attracted zl.5.2 billion in investment projects and turned out to be the best location for such companies as United Technologies Corporation, Lear corporation, Kirchhoff Group, Goodrich aerospace, MTU Aero Engines, Kronospan Group, BorgWarner Turbo Systems, and Husqvarna. Modern industrial complexes operating in the hi-tech sector, mainly the aircraft and automotive industry, have been successfully developed in southeastern Poland. The choice of our location by reputable global corporations proves the quality of what we offer: skilled workers able to deal with advanced technology coupled with relatively low labor costs, well-prepared industrial sites for development, and a state aid package. Importantly, the recent crisis has shown that investment projects in this region are secure.

My “semi-private” reason for satisfaction is that I have been at the helm of this undertaking since its inception. And my private reason for pride is my family of course: my grandson, the apple of my eye, and three wonderful women: my wife Kasia, and daughters Agata, an information technology teacher, and Maria, a student.

The Special Economic Zone Euro-Park Mielec was set up in 1995 as the first economic zone in Poland. It operates mainly in southeastern Poland and covers 1,246 hectares located in 20 sub-zones. It is managed by a government agency—the Industrial Development Agency (ARP SA). Investors here are eligible for the maximum level of state aid allowed under EU law.

What I’m Proud of
Paweł Olechnowicz, president of Lotos Group:
I am proud that I come from Poland and that I am a Pole. Of course, many people are proud of their country. But Polish people should feel this pride every day and show it on every occasion. I do not mean any noisy manifestations of nationalism. I mean a kind, confident and friendly pride in our country’s heritage and potential.

We often invoke history, which may arouse a sense of boredom, but I am going to take that risk. Poland’s history abounds in glorious, heroic moments—the Polish people persevered in their tough struggle for independence in the most difficult circumstances and were always uncompromising when it came to freedom and honor. We always paid with blood for this, but ultimately we always got what we fought for—freedom, independence and the right to self-determination. There was one fascinating exception from this rule—the Solidarity movement. This great social movement rejected violence and did not use violent methods, even when people were attacked with water canon, batons and subjected to police provocation. We won freedom not only for ourselves, but also for a large part of the world. Communism, one of the most oppressive systems, collapsed when confronted with our determination and freedom aspirations. This should be remembered everywhere in the world.

But to ensure this, we should display our good points skillfully and on frequent occasions. The French, who have made l’exception francaise their guiding principle in the international arena, are masters of this art. Let us introduce the principle of “the exceptional Poles,” one combining attributes of the spirit, hard work and friendliness to others. In today’s world, where lasting values are in short supply, this would be something attracting attention and respect from others. We should not be bragging, but should start praising ourselves.

There are good reasons to do so. During the Euro 2012 tournament, the world had an opportunity to see that Poland is a country of smart, cheerful and hospitable people, who enjoy life and are proud of what they have achieved. For several years our economic performance has been regarded as exceptional while visitors who come to Poland after a longer absence are astonished by the progress the country has made. We have achieved all this on our own. And we are not going to content ourselves with that.

Just look at Lotos Group—we have built Europe’s most modern oil refinery, which works better than planned. We are successfully developing the group, despite the global crisis, creating new jobs and building our self-confidence.

I am proud that we have successfully completed the process of political and economic transition and that we are looking into the future without anxiety. I know that, given our skills and what we have, the future will be great.

What I’m Proud of
Jakub Benke, President & CEO, Blue Jet:
As a Polish citizen and a Warsaw resident, I feel truly proud of our beautiful stadium, the freeway to Berlin and renovated train stations—which until recently were smelly and embarrassing. It surprised me how enormously touched and proud I felt as I drove on the freeway for the first time and when I watched the Euro 2012 opening ceremony. We have the highest economic growth in Europe and the press in the West has recently been resorting to superlatives in writing about Poland.

Personally, I am also extremely proud of the fact that the two companies that I manage are an international success and in many respects, they outperform the competition in the West. Blue Jet deals with a super-exclusive market niche which Poland has never specialized in and the services we provide meet top international standards. I am proud of the company’s successful combination of western professionalism with Polish flexibility and commitment. Companies which are able to achieve something like that are really better than their competition in the United States, Germany or Switzerland, even if the Polish inferiority complex makes this hard for us to believe.

Blue Jet is the largest business air carrier in Eastern Europe with a fleet of seven cutting-edge business jets which it charters to customers in Poland, Russia, Ukraine and Western Europe. The company has both small aircraft flying to nearby countries and an intercontinental jet which, during longer operations, even happens to fly around the world. Blue Jet staff like to say they sell two things you cannot normally buy—time and freedom. All it takes is one phone call and in two hours the client can board a plane flying to any destination in the world. Passengers come to the VIP terminal 10 minutes prior to departure and once they get on board, instead of the kind of dry cheese sandwich you get from regular airlines, there are served hot meals from the best restaurants.

Blue Jet also caters to owners of private jets by providing them with professional aircraft management and maintenance services.

The company has 100 employees and a modern hangar with a state-of-the-art maintenance center at the Chopin Airport in Warsaw. Blue Jet pilots obtain regular training on flight simulators in the United States. Since 2008, the company has almost quadrupled its revenues.
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