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The Warsaw Voice » National Voice » June 29, 2012
France in Poland
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Business the French Way
June 29, 2012   
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Monika Constant, general manager of the French Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Poland, talks to Ewa Hancock.

France has long been among the biggest foreign investors in Poland. Are many French companies interested in investing here at this time of economic crisis in Europe?
French investors have been present in Poland since the start of the country’s transition to a market economy. Large companies entered the Polish market very quickly and built up a strong position. Thanks to this, French companies continue to invest even in the face of the economic slowdown in Europe. French businesses are using this time to consolidate their market position, and owing to the fact that Poland has not been hit by the recession, the situation of investors here has also been much better than in other countries. A good market situation, and internal demand in particular, is also an incentive for new investors to take advantage of the Polish economy’s potential at a time when the economies in their own countries have slowed down.

To confirm that French companies are still doing well on the Polish market, I can quote a few examples of recent projects such as the Dalkia group’s acquisition of 85 percent of SPEC, the expansion of production lines at the Anpharm factory owned by Servier, and the steady development of large-scale distribution networks.

What do French investors find especially attractive about Poland?
First of all, Poland is France’s biggest trading partner among the countries in Central and Eastern Europe. We are perceived as a large and dynamic market with growing consumption. The good opinion of the Polish economy that has been widespread in European countries recently, and also the development of infrastructure ahead of the Euro 2012 soccer championships, has contributed to increased interest in our country from foreign companies, including French ones. It is worth pointing out that companies entering Poland are extremely diverse in terms of their size and sectors they represent. In the past year we have helped big and exclusive French fashion houses seeking suppliers in Poland as well as food sector companies offering regional products, wine or, for example, melon jam. These were often small family businesses boldly seeking customers in other countries and Poland was an attractive market for them. The industrial sector also often sought distributors or suppliers here. French companies planning a stronger presence in Poland and wanting to open a branch or transfer production here appreciate the fact that Poland has well-educated employees and that infrastructure in the country continues to develop, facilitating business.

From an investor’s perspective, what problems are there with running a company in Poland?
Investors who have been operating on the Polish market for some time tend to experience different difficulties than those who are taking their first steps here. For the latter, language can be a barrier, especially if they plan cooperation with entrepreneurs from smaller towns. Another problem is insufficient familiarity with the needs of the Polish market and the tastes or expectations of consumers. Another type of difficulty is mentioned by companies present on the Polish market for some years: in their everyday operations they face problems that affect all businesses. In many cases, the managers of French companies expanding their operations in our country have many years of international experience behind them, so they realize that solutions from other countries are often more business-friendly. The problems mentioned most frequently in conversations with investors include unclear legal regulations, complicated procedures, ambiguous interpretations of tax regulations, and too many formal requirements when launching new projects. Taking advantage of the experience of our member companies, the French Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Poland drew up a White Paper two years ago. This document contains several proposals and proposed solutions making it easier to do business in our country. The main areas covered by the White Paper include employee shareholding, taxes, real estate, vocational education, bringing Polish law in line with EU regulations, and public-private partnerships. French companies have a lot of experience in these fields and can propose certain solutions that will help all entrepreneurs develop. We have already submitted some of our proposals to the Polish authorities; the proposals were received with interest. I hope that at least some of them will become part of Polish law within a short time, thus facilitating business operations in Poland.

Which of the chamber’s projects would you count among its greatest successes?
The French Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Poland is 18 years old already. During all this time, we have supported both French and Polish companies taking their first steps on our market, and we have also been a contact point for all investors interested in working together. It is hard for me to single out one event or initiative as the most important. We gain great satisfaction from the fact that we have kept expanding throughout those 18 years, with more than 350 member companies today, and proposing new services tailored to companies’ needs. We are one of the biggest French chambers of commerce in Europe, even though Poland has only been open to international investors for 20 years. Most recently, one especially successful project for our chamber was organizing the French presence at the Economic Forum in Krynica. This year will be the third time that people can visit us in the Café France special pavilion, one of the most visited sites since it was created. It has been the venue of meetings of the presidents of Poland, Ukraine and Georgia, the presidents of the European Commission and the European Parliament, prime ministers and ministers from many countries. I hope that this year, too, French investors will be well represented at this event. This year on July 14 we also invite everyone to Francuska [French] Street in Warsaw where we are having an all-day family picnic to celebrate France’s national holiday. We want to use it as an opportunity to present France, its culture, tradition, but also its investors, to the general public. We hope to see you there.
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