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The Warsaw Voice » Other » April 27, 2005
INTERVIEW
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The Sky's the Limit
April 27, 2005   
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Wouter J. Lok, Commercial Counselor of the Royal Netherlands Embassy, talks to Dena R. Gurgul.

■ How would you describe Dutch-Polish trade relations?
Our relations are quite intensive. At the moment we are ranked seventh in terms of imports to Poland and sixth among export destinations from Poland. More importantly, we are the second largest investor in Poland and there is still a great deal of room for further investment. Interest in Poland as an outsourcing location is increasing significantly in the Netherlands.

■ How did those relations change following Poland's EU accession?
This event did not produce a shock, but was rather a smooth process. A good business has to anticipate future changes and that's precisely what Dutch businesses did. Actually, the accession process was accomplished over a longer period of time. I have been stationed in Poland for the past five years and it was quite clear from the beginning that all companies prepared themselves for Poland's future as an EU member.

One radical change that started on May 1, 2004, particularly in agriculture, involved increasing exports from Poland.

■ Could you tell us about some Dutch business success stories in Poland?
Of course, all the very large Dutch businesses such as Philips, Unilever, Heineken and ING are active on the Polish market. However, one company that stands out, Raben Logistics Sp. z o. o., was launched in 1991 by one of the sons of the owner of the Raben Group. It is now one of the largest transport companies in Poland. This is one of the best-although not the only-examples of how one can start practically from scratch on a new market.

■ Have there been any negative experiences?
One development is the case of PZU/Eureko and the fact that it hasn't yet been resolved. The press writes almost daily about irregularities, which in the view of the Dutch investor Eureko are a result of the role the Polish State plays in the company. Poland is a country with enormous possibilities and huge chances. The dynamics of the Polish economy are incredible, but the level of bureaucracy is still a matter for concern as well as the fact that politics continues to have a large influence on the management of some companies.

Although bureaucracy is a problem Poland shares to a certain extent with other countries, including mine, it is still sometimes difficult to get permits, and some legal procedures, despite their transparency and validity, are still rather slow. We are of the opinion that without these negative influences, the sky would be the limit as far as successes in Poland are concerned. In spite of these restraints, Poland's economic growth is still one of the highest in the EU so we can only imagine how high that growth would be in the absence of these barriers.

■ What are your personal reflections on Poland?
My stay in Poland has been a very interesting and happy time. Poles are very kind and good hosts as well as pleasant to work with. I already mentioned the dynamics of the country and specifically the economy. It always surprises me when I return to Poland after only a few weeks away, I can already notice changes. This capacity for changes is very stimulating and a very welcome contribution to the EU. Poles are also industrious and have an impressive know-how in many fields. We hope that our work here will contribute in some small part to Poland's successful development as a member of the EU.
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