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The Warsaw Voice » Business » March 27, 2013
Business& Economy
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Business with Russia
March 27, 2013   
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Jacek Piechota, former economy minister and head of Stowarzyszenie Europa-Północ-Wschód (Europe-North-East Association), a group that is one of the organizers of the Baltic Business Forum, talks to the Voice.

This year’s Baltic Business Forum will be held April 24-26 in the northwestern Polish town of Świnoujście and the nearby German seaside resort of Heringsdorf. Russia will be guest of honor at the event. Why Russia?
Russia currently presides over the Council .of Baltic Sea States. The Baltic Business Forum will thus provide an opportunity to discuss ways of carrying out the priorities of this presidency, especially in terms of economic cooperation. Russia, when assuming the presidency of the Council of Baltic Sea States, had an ambitious plan of creating a network of business incubators, supporting innovation, and developing new technology. Together we want to take a look at whether or not these challenges have been met. During the forum, we also want to discuss the role of Russian capital in the economic development of the entire region.

Russian capital is not welcome in Poland...
Indeed, in Poland we have an incredibly ideologically-charged approach to Russian capital. We tend to see every potential investment project coming from Moscow or St. Petersburg as a conspiracy or a subterfuge. The Polish Treasury Minister actually takes pride in saying that he has not privatized a single enterprise with the involvement of Russian investors. Such an approach leads to a situation in which huge capital flows are bypassing our economy and reaching Western European countries instead. While the Russians have invested tens of millions of euros in Poland so far, their business with other EU countries runs into billions of euros.

Are the Russians more pragmatic in their approach to the economy than we are?
On the Russian side, normalization is taking place and economic factors are becoming the most important. Moscow is aware that Poland is a member of the European Union and strictly follows the EU’s competition policy, building competitive energy and gas markets, with the right of third party access to the network and the removal of a ban on re-exportation. The Russians are trying to adapt to these conditions, sometimes with difficulty. One example is a reduction in the price of gas sold to Poland and the go-ahead for signing a contract on direct crude oil deliveries to PKN Orlen while bypassing intermediaries. It’s a shame that oil and gas deliveries are arguably the only area of Polish-Russian economic cooperation. We lack contacts at the level of small and medium-sized enterprises. During the Baltic Business Forum we want to think of ways of stimulating these relations.

Russia’s Kaliningrad region is that country’s window on Western Europe. Does Moscow have a doctrine of economic presence on the Baltic to replace its former military doctrine?
The Baltic Sea region today is a standout example of the peaceful coexistence of many nations, though the memory of war crimes is still vivid here. Under these conditions, the Kaliningrad region no longer needs to be a military base, but is naturally predisposed to become an important economic and business center. At Świnoujście, we will be examining Finnish-Russian experience in building business relations, for example. These two countries used to be divided by a complicated history, while today they are perfectly capable of working together. So we have someone to learn things from.
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