Local businesses learn about 'Doing Business in Poland'

The Regional Languages Network South West (RLN SW) is holding a FREE event in conjunction with UKT&I (United Kingdom Trade and Investment) at the University of the West of England to help local businesses improve the way they deal with overseas customers.

The theme for the special briefing on Wednesday 29 November will be the language and business culture of Poland, now a key trading partner for many businesses. The event is aimed at helping local businesses to bridge culture barriers and take advantage of trading opportunities with their international customers.

The day will start with a Polish-style breakfast from 08.30 followed by a programme of activities which includes a language taster course in Polish to see how much of a new language can be learned in 40 minutes. Magda Lowson, a native Polish speaker, will teach the delegates.

This will be followed by a brief discussion about whether learning a language (Polish is just an example), or using an alternative strategy would make most sense for an individual company's needs.

Dr Peter Gold, who heads the local hub of the Regional Language Network South West, said, “Our aim is to make businesses think about tackling language and cultural issues to improve trade and make the most of new business opportunities in other countries, and to help them find solutions for their particular needs. We hope that the event will demonstrate to local businesses that taking a few simple steps to communicate effectively with customers from other countries can ultimately make a valuable contribution to the bottom line of their company. The same can be said of local businesses involved in the tourism industry.”

There will also be a briefing session on doing business in Poland presented by Krzysztof Trepczynski of the Polish Embassy, followed by a consideration of the value of such briefings for conducting business successfully in overseas markets.

The discussion will tackle questions such as: Can using languages make a difference? Is learning a language the best option? Why are business culture briefings important? Where to go for advice and help? The event will close with a Question and Answer Session where Peter Gold, Magda Lowson and Krzysztof Trepczynski will reply to delegates' questions.
he event will take place on Wednesday 29 November from 8.30 to 11.30am at the Octagon, University of the West of England Frenchay Campus Coldharbour Lane, Bristol. See: http://www.uwe.ac.uk/maps/frenchay_directions.shtml for directions.

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Poland wary about adopting euro

Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski today reiterated his wariness about Poland’s quick adoption of the euro, used by 12 other European Union nations.

“I am sceptical,” Kaczynski told a news conference. “I think haste in this matter could seriously hurt us.”

Kaczynski’s socially conservative Law and Justice party has continuously voiced doubts about fast adoption of the euro, arguing it would not be beneficial for this ex-communist country as it labours to catch up economically with the West.

“We have to join the euro, but there’s no fixed deadline, so we can do it when the levels of economic development in Poland and the euro zone are closer than they are now,” Kaczynski said.

The central bank is pushing for adopting the common currency as soon as possible, claiming that it would eliminate the risk of currency volatility and accelerate economic growth.

President Lech Kaczynski, the prime minister’s twin brother, recently said he favoured 2010 as a date for a referendum on euro adoption.

The prime minister also said his government approved an updated version of its euro convergence strategy, a key document guiding the country’s drive to join the common currency.

The announcement comes a day after European Union finance ministers ordered Poland to do more to rein in a budget deficit that will next year climb above the 3% of gross domestic product limit set by EU rules as it counts the cost of pension reform. The ministers told Warsaw to re-examine its draft budget for 2007, saying current action is “insufficient” to cut public debt by the end of 2007.

The document presented by the prime minister envisions Poland’s budget deficit dropping to 2.9% of gross domestic product again in 2009.

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EU demands more efforts from Poland to curb budget deficit

European Union (EU) finance ministers warned Poland on Tuesday that its efforts to rein in its excessive budget deficit was "inadequate."

The finance ministers noted in a decision that although there has been an improvement in Poland's fiscal position, but action taken by Poland is proving to be inadequate for bringing its government budget deficit within the EU limits by 2007.

The EU's stability and growth pact requires member states to maintain its deficit below the maximum threshold of 3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

The draft budget of Poland for 2007 sets the deficit at 3.7 percent, including the costs of pension reform, but the European Commission, EU's executive body, forecast that it may turn out slightly higher, standing at 4 percent of GDP.

Under a transitional arrangement, Poland now can exclude the costs of pension reform from its deficit accounting, but the arrangement will expire on April. 1, 2007.

The EU finance ministers' decision follows an earlier recommendation by the European Commission to the European Council.


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Angola: Poland Contributes One Million to WFP


The Republic of Poland recently contributed an estimated Usd one million towards supporting the World Food Programme (WFP) in Angola.

The information is contained in a WFP press note released Wednesday in Luanda, stating that the amount that will be distributed to Afghanistan, DR Congo, Georgia and Tanzania.

According to the source, of the amount, Usd 200,000 will be used in the transportation of essential aid food to thousands of school children.

Main beneficiaries of the aid will be children facing serious health and education needs, following several years of armed conflict.

The WFP is the world's main humanitarian organisation, providing a yearly assistance to about 90 million people, including 58 million children in hunger in at least 80 poor countries.

Source: allafrica.com

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Poland knew of CIA prisons but no solid evidence, says Euro report

A European Parliament report on the alleged illegal transfer and torture of international terror suspects by the CIA states claims 11 EU nations, including Poland, knew of the activity.
The draft of the report presented by Claudio Fava and the investigative committee speaks of 20 people suspected of terrorist actions that had been abducted in EU countries and then passed on to US intelligence services.

The Italian MEP considers the number to be the tip of the iceberg.

'We know the story of 20 victims with a Western European passport in their pocket. We are afraid there are several other victims. We are asking the Parliament to put us inside the freedoms committee to take ahead our work.'

The report also points to Poland, together with 9 other countries, as one of the destinations where these CIA captives could have been taken. It mentions the provincial Szymany airport in the north-east where records revealed 7 landings of CIA chartered planes in 2003. The airfield is located near a training center of Polish intelligence, which the report names as a possible location of a secret detention place for the international terrorist suspects.

Former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski denies the existence of CIA prisons in Poland.

' There were no secret prisons. Of course, there was cooperation within the framework of the anti-terrorist coalition. We couldn't leave our American allies and not help them in such cases as allowing landing for refueling or technical assistance.'

Janusz Onyszkiewicz, deputy chairman of the European Parliament, says the committee led by Claudio Fava has not contributed any fresh evidence to substantiate earlier repeated allegations on the existence of secret CIA prisons in Poland.

'I don't think this committee found something entirely new. But what is really deplorable is the lack of spirit of cooperation between Polish authorities and this committee. It resulted in a certain feeling that Poland has something to hide, which I think is not the case. Unfortunately, this is the impression Polish authorities have created.'

When the team of Euro deputies arrived on a fact finding mission in Poland some weeks ago, they limited their activity to Warsaw. At a press conference held at the end of their stay, a reservation was made of lack of cooperation on the part of Polish authorities.

Beata Plomecka, Polish Radio correspondent in Brussels, says the reactions of Polish MEPs have had various shades, but the absence of concrete proof and abundance of unclear statements in the report has been pointed out by all but one.

'The Poles are divided. But according to most of them this report lacks hard evidence. They consider unacceptable such words as "could have been" or "may have happened". People say that this is unacceptable after one year of investigation. At least four (Polish) MEPS will try to change this report and cross out especially one sentence which says there might have been some secret facilities in Poland. There is only one Polish MEP who agrees with this report. It's Jozef Pinior from the Socialist group. He thinks it is solid and honest work. And if there is such conditional wording, it's because Polish authorities didn't want to cooperate with the committee.'

MEPs can now forward their suggestions and propose amendments to the draft report of the investigation commission. The European Parliament will vote on the final version of the document early next year.

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Chevrolet to initiate European production in Poland

Starting in late 2007, the Aveo, Chevrolet’s small four-door sedan, will be built at a production facility in Warsaw in Poland for sale throughout Europe. An all-new, three- and five-door hatchback variant will be assembled at the same location from mid-2008.

Building the vehicle in Europe will allow Chevrolet to meet current demand and shorten delivery times while reducing logistics costs as well as currency risks for the company. The move will also make it easier to allocate vehicles produced at GM’s Korean manufacturing facilities for sale in Asia and the USA.

Production at the facility will increase slowly from some 4,000 cars built in the latter part of 2007 to upwards of 60,000 in the first full year of production in 2008. Further increases to over 150,000 units per year are planned once all three model variants are in place. The initial phase of Chevrolet production will secure more than 1,000 jobs among the existing workforce.

Motorway Direct and AA Insurance are to provide a range of motor warranty and gap insurance products for dealerships and individuals. Motorway Direct claims the launch of AA Warranty will help improve the reputation of the car retailing market.


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Poland's central bank holds interest rates steady

Poland's central bank kept interest rates unchanged Wednesday, a decision that was in line with economists' expectations.

The National Bank of Poland said it was keeping the bank's benchmark seven-day intervention rate at 4 percent, an all-time low.

Despite surging economic growth, economists believe that it may be several months before the bank tightens credit.


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Poland's premier condemns neo-Nazi video possibly linked to minister

Warsaw - Poland's Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski on Wednesday condemned as "scandalous" a video allegedly showing a neo-fascist party organised by the All-Poland Youth, the youth wing of the Polish government's Catholic-nationalist League of Polish Families (LPR) junior coalition partner. The video made public Tuesday by Poland's Dziennik daily shows a group of All-Poland Youth members shouting the Second World War German Nazi salute "Sieg Heil" against the backdrop of a large burning Nazi swastika.

The night-time party in question was apparently held outdoors in the Silesia region of southern Poland two years ago.

The public propagation of totalitarian ideologies such as fascism or communism is illegal in Poland.

LPR party leader and Poland's Minister of Education and Deputy Prime Minister Roman Giertych is the main mentor of the All Poland Youth organisation. He has denied it propagates fascism, but many of it members are known to have neo-Nazi sympathies.

"Anyone who propagates the swastika in Poland is not only an idiot, but also a criminal," Giertych was quoted as saying Wednesday.

Giertych on Wednesday distanced himself from the activities of the All Poland Youth members shown in the video. He filed a criminal complaint against the organisers of the neo-Nazi party with Poland's Ministry of Justice and denied the LPR had any links with them.

But a young woman who the video shows enthusiastically participating in the neo-Nazi party is believed to be Leokadia Zwiazek, the assistant of Roman Giertych's father Maciej, a member of the European Parliament.

Opposition politicians on Tuesday called for Giertych and his LPR party to be ousted from Kaczynski's conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party-led government.

Prime Minister Kaczynski warned of "political consequences" if links could be established between Giertych and his LPR party and the organisers of the neo-Nazi gathering in question.

"It there are such links, this would be very bad," Kaczynski told reporters in Warsaw Wednesday.

"These kinds of gestures in a country where six million citizens were murdered (by Nazi Germany during WWII) is something extremely upsetting," Kaczynski said.

The LPR's 29 seats in Poland's 460 seat upper house of parliament give the PiS a voting majority. Recent opinion polls show the LPR failing to score the 5 per cent required to enter parliament.

Other dark clouds have also been gathering over Roman Giertych this week. Press speculation has focused on whether former PiS prime minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz may replace him as education minister.

Marcinkiewicz is looking for a new job after recently losing to a liberal in the race for Warsaw mayor. Premier Kaczynski has vowed to invite him back into government.
Source: /rawstory.com

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Asseco Poland announces approved merger and Q3 results

Earlier this month, Polish IT house Asseco Capital Group announced its Q3 results. Sales were up 55% on Q3 2005 at Zl 76.8 million (€20.2 million), with an EBIT margin of 18.9%. Net profits of Zl 31.3 million (€8.2 million) were up 397% on Q3 2005.In the first nine months of 2006 Asseco had sales revenues of Zl 230.5 million (€60.6 million), up 80%, an EBITDA margin of 19.6% and net profits of Zl 46.3 million (€ 12.2 million), up 192% year-on-year. This compares to Softbank SA's sales of Zl 356.2 million (€93.7 million), up 30%, an EBITDA margin of 12% and net profits of Zl 45.8 million (€12 million), up 41% year-on-year.

On the same day that Asseco published its financials, a general shareholder meeting took place where Softbank SA and Asseco Poland shareholders approved the merger of the two companies and appointed the supervisory board. The new entity will operate under the 'Asseco Poland' name. Adam Góral will remain president and CEO of Asseco. As of Q1 2007, both companies will be consolidated.
The merged company with combined sales estimated by Asseco to be €247 million in 2006 will be the number three indigenous Polish IT player after Prokom Group (with around €514 million sales in 2006) and ComuterLand/Emax (around €39 million sales in 2006). However, in the banking sector, this move will make Asseco the number one software provider for the Polish banking sector, with combined sales of €91 million in 2005, followed by ComuterLand/Emax with €71 million and Bazy Systems with €23 million in the same period (figures provided by Asseco). Asseco's plans do not stop at the Polish border, though. With the merger approved and financials in place, Asseco will now implement its internationalization strategy with a string of acquisitions planned for Central and Eastern Europe. It will set up Asseco Czech, which is to be listed on Warsaw Stock Exchange next year, by buying two additional companies besides the Czech firm PVT, which it already owns. Asseco Slovakia will be strengthened via two supplementary acquisitions and, in addition, it will buy a stake in a Russian IT firm to form a joint venture. Asseco has further plans to establish Asseco Balkans, which will be operating in Romania and Serbia as of next year. In the longer term, Asseco aims to expand into Western Europe. Asseco will announce further details on its acquisitions in mid-December.

Source: By
Cornelia Wels-Maugm ovum.com

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ECOFIN Ministers agree Poland to miss 2007 deficit deadline - source

EU finance ministers endorsed the European Commission's view that Poland will miss its 2007 deadline for cutting its deficit below the stability and growth pact limit of 3 pct of GDP, an EU source said.

'The decision on Poland has been adopted,' the source said.

Poland's draft 2007 budget approved at the end of September puts the deficit at 3.7 pct, while the commission estimates 4.0 pct.

In July 2004, ministers decided Poland was in breach of the stability pact limit and should correct its deficit by 2007.

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GM confirms to build Chevys in Poland next year

General Motors will start production of a Chevrolet small four-door saloon in the latter part of next year at a plant in Warsaw, Poland, that is owned by Ukrainian partner UkrAvto, GM said on Tuesday.

The company's comments confirmed what a source close to the matter told Reuters on Monday.

The U.S. carmaker said it plans to build upwards of 60,000 Chevy Aveos -- also called the Kalos in some markets -- in its first full year and expects to eventually ramp up production to over 150,000 once two additional hatchback versions are added in mid-2008.

The move will help alleviate bottlenecks in the Aveo's current plant in South Korea, allowing it to divert additional volumes to the Asian and U.S. markets.

t would also shorten delivery times of Korean-built Chevys to Europe while reducing logistics costs and lowering foreign exchange risks.

"Assembly in Europe will help ensure the continued growth of the Chevrolet brand in Europe and give (South Korean unit) GM Daewoo much needed manufacturing flexibility to meet the strong global demand for its most popular vehicle," GM Daewoo Chief Executive Michael Grimaldi said in a statement.

Chevy sales in Europe are expected to surpass 300,000 units this year versus 190,000 in 2004, the company said.

A source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Monday that an announcement on building the entry-model Chevys in Poland was imminent.

GM and UkrAvto have been in talks for months about forming a joint venture to make Chevrolets in Poland, but decided the Warsaw assembly plant will make Chevrolet small cars under contract for the time being, the source said.

The world's largest carmaker by volume, GM already cooperates with UkrAvto to make Chevrolets in Ukraine, so building up capacity in Poland was seen as a logical way to beef up European production of the brand rather than rely on imports.


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Poland and Italy colluded on CIA detentions

Poland and Italy colluded in the illegal detention of suspected terrorists by American agents, according to a report by the European parliament.

The report concludes that at least 1,245 flights operated by the CIA flew through European airspace or landed at the continent's airports.

The report expresses "serious concern" over what it claims were 11 stopovers at Polish airports made by aircraft operated by the Central Intelligence Agency.

The report was prepared by a committee examining the CIA's clandestine programme of moving detainees between third countries known as extraordinary rendition.

The document focuses on activities at Szymany airport in the north of the country, rumoured to be close to a "black site" where detainees were held in secret.

A Boeing 737 known to be used by the CIA for renditions flew from Kabul to Szymany on September 22 2003 and thence to the US detention centre at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, the report claims. No customs controls were carried out.

This was when a number of senior al-Qaeda "high value" detainees were seized during and after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and were transferred from US bases there.

During 2002 and 2003, six Gulfstream jets that were regarded as synonymous with the rendition programme landed at the Polish airport.

Border guards told airport staff not to approach the aircraft and that landing procedures should be handled only by military personnel, the report alleges, citing unnamed airport employees.

The registration numbers of the vehicles that greeted the aircraft are said to have matched those associated with the nearby intelligence training base at Stare Kiejkuty.

The report also claimed that Nicolò Pollari, director of the Italian security and intelligence services, "concealed the truth" when he denied to the committee that Italian agents had played an "active role" in the abduction of Abu Omar, an Egyptian cleric, in Milan on February 17 2003.

"If the EU's aspirations to be a 'human rights community' have any meaning whatsoever, there must now be a forceful EU response to this strong evidence that the CIA abducted, illegally imprisoned and transported alleged terrorists in Europe," said Baroness Sarah Ludford, MEP for the British Liberal Democrats and vice-chair of the committee that wrote the report.

Source: msnbc.msn.com

By Tom Burgis

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Expert tips Poland as property investment hotspot

Investors might want to consider Poland as a place to buy property as house values in the area should rise by 15 per cent a year in the next five years, according to a property expert.

James Naughton, owner of tniproperties.com, said that Krakow has seen house prices rise "phenomenally" in the past few years, with estimates revealing that prices have gone up 27 per cent in the past year.

Mr Naughton estimates that this is probably closer to 80 per cent in the past 18 months and recommended Poland as a great place to buy property.

He said: "I'm being conservative at 15 per cent. Krakow was the best-performing market last year percentage-wise with Warsaw not far behind.

"Krakow did 27 per cent but that's not really indicative. I think in the last 18 months, according to TVN which is a financial television station over here, two months ago they were saying that Krakow did 72 per cent in the previous 18 months."

Mr Naughton added: "I think it's fair to say an 80 per cent jump in the market."
Source: realestatetv.tv

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GM sets deal to build Chevrolets in Poland -source

FRANKFURT, Nov 27 (Reuters) - General Motors has clinched a deal to have Ukrainian automaker UkrAvto build entry-level Chevrolet cars for GM at a plant in Poland, a source close to the matter said.

"An announcement is imminent," the source said, asking to remain unidentified because the news had not yet been officially confirmed.

The two companies have been in talks for months about forming a joint venture to make Chevrolets in Poland, but have now decided the FSO assembly plant will make Chevrolet small cars under contract for the time being, the source said.

GM declined comment.

he Automotive News Europe industry paper cited company sources as saying the plant will start making Aveo small cars in the fourth quarter of 2007, alleviating capacity restraints at the GM Daewoo Auto plant in South Korea that makes the model.

Output in Poland would be less than 10,000 units in 2007, but annual production could hit 50,000 from 2008, the source said.

GM -- the world's largest carmaker by volume -- already cooperates with UkrAvto to make Chevrolets in Ukraine, so building up capacity in Poland is seen as a logical way to beef up European production of the brand rather than rely on imports.

GM's labour force sees the move as a potential threat to jobs in western Europe, but GM has insisted production of Opel and Vauxhall models won't be shifted to eastern Europe.

Still, GM has stressed that plants in western Europe need to be extremely productive to offset higher labour costs.


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Potato production has dramatically decreased in Czech Republic and Poland and has increased in Ukraine

According to information of ebronisze.pl with the reference to the data of the official statistics, the preliminary volume of potato production in 2006 is around 9 mln. tons in Poland. This figure is 15% less than a year ago. And, potato production has declined 34% in Czech Republic. At the present moment the wholesale prices for potato exceed 40% the past year level in Poland; potato costs around $0.2-0.23/kg.

Polish sources inform that the quality of potato is very low. Potato is sensitive to diseases, it is poorly stored. The storage losses can be higher than usual.

According to the tentative estimations, around 20.8 mln. tons of potato have been harvested in Ukraine this year. So, our country is likely to be the largest grower of this product in Europe. The harvest is approximately 7% larger than a year ago despite of the decreased yield in some regions of Central, Southern and Eastern Ukraine. The production growth has already resulted in that fact that potato is 30-40% cheaper now than in November 2005. The prices on the wholesale markets of the western regions of Ukraine are comparable to the wholesale potato prices in Poland.

It is worth mentioning that all producers interested in the opportunities to grow potato will be able to receive valuable information about new technologies of potato production, and new options to sell this product. They can have this advantage during the third international conference "Fruits and Vegetables of Ukraine 2006. Open Market". "Agromark UK" company, Ukrainian-Dutch supplier of high-quality seed potato, and "Agro-Zakhid" company, a large buyer of high-quality potato will dedicate their presentations to potato. The representatives of Craft Foods Ukraine, the largest company - potato processor in Ukraine, as well as other potato suppliers and consumers will participate in the conference too.


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ADB has a chance to sell its products in Poland

Advanced Digital Broadcast (ADB) sells its products all over the world but not in Poland. It has so far sold 7m decoders in several dozens countries. It has just received its first big contract in Poland – to deliver decoders for “n” platform launched by ITI.

“The “n” platform sets new technological standards in Poland. Implementing digital high definition television may convince cable providers to get digitalized. Implementation of high definition TV may make cable producers get digital, too. The market would then open to our products”, Katarzyna Sawka, ADB Group marketing director.

However, ADB has had some problems already. The “n” platform which wants to have 45,000 clients till the end of November, explains that there are problems with the production of decoders.

“The demand exceeded our expectations”, Katarzyna Sawka said.

In the first half of this year, ADB had a net loss.

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Apple production in Poland and China has exceeded the preliminary expectations

According to information of ebronisze.pl with the reference to the data of official statistics, in 2006 apple production turned out to be higher than expected in Poland; it constituted around 2.3 mln. tons. The harvest 2006 is 11% greater than in 2005. The situation has already resulted in the serious problems with commercial apple sales for affordable prices. At the same time, according to the data of British experts, the volume of apple production in China can also increase 20% up to 24 mln. tons. This figure is also greater than the experts and market payers expected to. So, it is possible that the forecasts of high prices for apples can be reconsidered soon.

According to information of the analysts of the Agricultural Marketing Project, despite of the production growth, the prices for quality table apples are somewhat higher in Poland at the present moment than a year ago. This fact is predetermined by the reduced apple production in most countries of Western Europe, and also by a high percentage of non-marketable apples in the harvest.

The prices for marketable apple have increased in average 20-30% this season in Ukraine comparing to the previous year. The prices for apples for processing needs have increased even more significantly. The detailed price forecast for apples and other products in the new season will be presented by the analysts in a week during the third international conference "Fruits and Vegetables of Ukraine 2006. Open Market".


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Poland makes its largest donation ever to WFP

WFP has heralded Poland’s largest single donation of US $1 million to its operations in Afghanistan, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Georgia and Tanzania.

“Poland has been a steady supporter of our work for many years,” said WFP Deputy Executive Director for Fundraising and Communications, John Powell.

“This remarkably generous donation is a sign of Poland’s growing engagement in the international humanitarian community as a member of the European Union.”

This latest donation brings Poland’s contributions to WFP to a total of US $1.2 million in 2006 – a six-fold increase compared to last year. Poland has donated a total of US $2.8 million since 2000.


Poland will give US $200,000 of the US $1 million to Afghanistan, where WFP aims to provide food to 3.5 million people each year in extremely tough and often dangerous circumstances.

Early snows have already cut off roads to some of the most remote locations, and drought and floods have rendered an additional 1.9 million people in need of aid.

Another US $200,000 will help WFP Angola transport essential food aid to thousands of school children struggling to regain their health and education after years of conflict.


While recent elections hold the promise of peace for the Democratic Republic of Congo, WFP’s work there will benefit greatly from US $200,000 from the Polish donation.

One and a half million people displaced by vicious fighting will still need assistance for some time.

The largest share of the contribution, US $300,000, is allocated to Georgia. More than 200,000 poor people there receive assistance, including the elderly and disabled through soup kitchens and the unemployed through food-for-work projects.

Beneficiaries also include 6,000 refugees from Chechnya and 5,000 internally displaced Georgians.


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Seeing Double in Poland

It's an unusual problem for a country to have: Poland may be the first country in history to boast identical twins in its two top political posts. Lech and Jaroslaw Kaczynski are Poland's President and Prime Minister, respectively. In order not to confuse world leaders, they have a policy of not traveling together to summits such as this week's NATO meeting in Riga. They also try to avoid appearing together at home. Even so, there have been mix-ups. The Financial Times told its readers that Prime Minister Kaczynski visited Britain when, in fact, it was the President. A reporter for BBC Newshour asked President Kaczynski about his earlier talks with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. But it was his brother who had traveled to Berlin. "Let's be precise," replied the miffed President. It's my brother who met with Angela Merkel though perhaps I am a little bit similar to him."

In appearance, the brothers are in fact very difficult to tell apart, although Lech, the President, has a small mole on his left cheek and another on the right side of his nose. They both stand about 5'4". Lech is married with a daughter while Jaroslaw is a bachelor who lives with his mother and a cat. Now 57, they came to prominence as 13-year-old child stars in the 1962 Polish film The Two Who Stole the Moon, in which they played mischievous but endearing blond brothers. Later, in the 1980s, they joined the Solidarity movement that would trigger the overthrow of communism across Eastern Europe. They orchestrated the 1990 victory in Poland's first post-communist elections of Solidarity's most famous son, Lech Walesa, but fell out with him shortly afterward and left politics for a time.

Lech Kaczynski returned as Justice Minister in the late 1990s, promising to get tough on crime. That image served as a springboard to launch the Law and Justice Party, which the brothers control. The party went on to win closely fought Parliamentary elections last year and, shortly afterward, presidential polls in which Lech was a come-from-behind winner. Jaroslaw did not become Prime Minister right away. Fearful of being mistaken for his brother by a would-be assassin, however, he requested official government security not ordinarily accorded a party leader. He was appointed Prime Minister earlier this year when his predecessor stepped down following disagreements over the direction of government policy. Political analysts in Poland believe that Jaroslaw first declined to take the job, even though his party won the election, in order to avoid handicapping his brother's chances in the presidential elections that came shortly after.

The twins' year in power has been filled with controversy. They are staunch social conservatives who would like to see the death penalty reinstated and are intent on purging Polish political and judicial circles of the last vestiges of Communist rule, which they blame for most of Poland's ongoing economic and political problems. Relations with Russia have deteriorated under their governance: a European Union effort to sign a new deal with Russia on energy investment collapsed on November 24 partly because of Polish objections. (Poland wanted Russia to lift a ban on the import of Polish meats and other produce, which Poles say Russia imposed in retaliation for Polish support of the so-called Orange Revolution in neighboring Ukraine). The brothers have maintained Poland's historical support for the U.S., commanding a sector of Iraq and agreeing this month to send 1000 additional troops to shore up NATO in Afghanistan.

The twins talk to each other on the phone many times each day. "After all we have a family in common," Lech told TIME on the eve of his election. They recognize that their unusual relationship has the potential to raise eyebrows. Earlier this year, Lech skipped his brother's inaugural speech to Parliament, an occasion that Presidents have in the past attended, in order not to "distract" people, as Jaroslaw later explained. Soon after the speech, a reporter asked Lech whether it would become their policy that "where Prime Minister Kaczynski shows up, President Kaczynski does not?" "There might be exceptions to that rule," Lech replied. "Sometimes we are appearing together but it is true, it does not happen often."

On Tuesday, President Kaczynski will travel to Riga to meet with George W. Bush and other leaders to discuss missions in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Memo to POTUS: he is the one with the mole on his cheek. Or is that Jaroslaw?

Source: By reporting by Beata Pasek/Warsaw, www.time.com

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Axel Springer Looks Abroad to Expand Media Empire

After Axel Springer's ambitions to take over Germany's ProSiebenSAT1 were thwarted by the competition and media authorities, the newspaper publisher is now hoping to acquire a share in television sector outside Germany.

In the bitter battle for the broadcaster, Springer, which publishes the mass-circulation daily Bild, was forced to admit a stinging defeat at the beginning of this year when media and anti-trust watchdogs vetoed the deal.

But Springer, the biggest newspaper publisher in Europe, did not spend long licking its wounds and has since embarked on an aggressive overseas expansion drive, taking stakes in Turkish and Polish television companies and preparing the launch of a French version of its flagship tabloid, Bild, the most widely-read newspaper in Germany.

On Nov. 16, Springer announced it was taking a 25-percent stake in the Turkish broadcaster Dogan TV, the parent company of which has other media interests, such as the newspapers Hurriyet and Milliyet.

A week later, on Nov. 23, the German group then said it was in talks to buy a 25.1-percent stake in Polish television company Polsat.

Already successful in Polish print media

Springer has already successfully established itself in Poland via its mass-circulation daily Fakt and the more high-brow publication, Dziennik.

By itself, the move into Polish television "makes sense, we see it as an interesting investment," said Springer spokeswoman Edda Fels.

The publishing company could use its existing printed media activities there to forge a link between the printed and television media, a strategy that has long been an ambition of chief executive Mathias Döpfner, who masterminded the original plans to buy ProSiebenSAT1, Germany's biggest free-to-air broadcaster.

Döpfner has insisted that "we don't need a substitute" for ProSiebenSAT1, and that Springer would forge ahead with growth, seizing all strategic and investment opportunities as they presented themselves.

Aside from Fakt and Dziennik in Poland, Axel Springer has launched various foreign-language versions of its best-selling German publications, such as Computer Bild in Russia and Auto Bild in Azerbaijan.

French Bild also in the works

The group now generates 16 percent of its revenues abroad, a trend that is rising.

Nevertheless, Springer's preparations to launch a French Bild, now at an advanced stage, represents a change in direction, since the target market is not central and eastern Europe, but a mature market much bigger in size than Poland or Hungary.

Springer hopes the French Bild, which so far has not been given an official name, will repeat the success of Fakt in Poland.

Launched in 2003, Fakt quickly became the country's most widely-read newspaper.

Earlier this week, Springer said that the financing for a French editorial team was already in place and the final decision regarding the timetable for the launch would be made next year.

Markets likely to smile on Springer

All this frenetic activity is likely to be good for Axel Springer, according to industry experts.

The group's main outside shareholder, US private equity group Hellman and Friedman, plans to sell a 10-percent stake in the newspaper publisher via the open market by the end of the year, depending on market conditions.

Hellman and Friedman specializes in investments in media and new technologies and holds 19.4 percent of Springer.


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Polish governing party hopes to keep Warsaw city hall in local elections

WARSAW, Poland: Poland's conservative governing party hoped to hang on to the Warsaw mayor's office Sunday in the most closely watched of hundreds of local election races testing its strength.

Sunday's runoff vote in Warsaw was needed because no candidate reached the 50 percent of the vote needed to win outright in a first round of voting on Nov. 12.

A second round was required in 828 towns nationwide. However, attention focused on whether former Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz would keep the Warsaw mayor's office for the governing Law and Justice party.

Marcinkiewicz faces a strong challenge from the main opposition party, the business-friendly Civic Platform, which fielded as its candidate former central bank president Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz.

Marcinkiewicz, who has been Warsaw's acting mayor since the summer, emerged from the first round with a four-point lead. The Warsaw mayor's job was once held by Lech Kaczynski, now Poland's president.

The socially conservative Law and Justice lost overall control of Warsaw city council to Civic Platform in November, among other losses.

However, Law and Justice, which has led the Polish government for the past year, performed strongly in rural areas.

Led by the president's twin brother, Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, it pledged to wipe out corruption and purge the country of vestiges of communist rule. However, reform efforts in other areas have been slowed by political infighting.


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Swiss say 'Yes' to aid for new EU members

The Swiss have voted today to give a billion Swiss Francs to the ten new EU members. That amounts to around 630 million euros. In a referendum, just over 53 percent of the electorate voted in favour of the voluntary contribution. Turnout was low at around 45 percent.

Although Switzerland itself is not part of the EU, it still benefits indirectly from the development of member states.

The result will be a relief to the government after a late surge by the 'No' camp. The biggest recipient will be Poland with just under half the total amount of aid.

The money will be paid over 10 years from existing programmes, meaning there will be no extra cost to the tax-payer. Another non-member, Norway, has already pledged a billion euros over the same period.

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Poland’s Krzysztof Wlodarczyk Wins The Vacant IBF Cruiserweight Title over America’s Steve Cunningham

Last night in a heated exchange at the Torwar Sport Hall, in Warsaw, Poland, Krzysztof Wlodarczyk, 37-1, 27 KO’s, gave the American and Philadelphia fighter, Steve Cunningham, 19-1, 10 KO’s, his first professional loss by capturing the vacant IBF Cruiserweight Title in a split decision. Hammer Knockout Promotions supplied a great match up in their main event. Despite no knockdowns in the fight, both fighters boxed and moved, and looked for openings when available. There weren’t many.

Wlodarczyk used more combination punches, lefts to the body, and rights to the head. Cunningham threw more punches and stinging uppercuts, but neither man was backing down from their assailant. In what was a very close fight, the judges were again, far from reality when it came to scoring and maybe a bit biased. The American judge scored it 119-109 for Cunningham, thus giving him basically every round of the fight. German Judge Wilfred Rollert scored it 116-112, and Polish Judge, Wlodzimierz Kromka scored it 115-112 for Wlodarczyk.

In the end, both fighters were asked how they felt the fight went? “You can say what you want, but I’m the World Champion,” said Wlodarczyk. “He’s a good fighter,” said Cunningham. “But he did not beat me. Look at me, I still feel good. I’m ready to go another twelve rounds.” There may be a possible rematch…this time back in the states?
Source: ringsidereport.com

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Warsaw says Belarusian spy working against Poland arrested in Lithuania

WARSAW, Poland: A Belarusian spy working against the interests of Poland was arrested Saturday in neighboring Lithuania, Poland's national prosecutor said.

Prosecutor Janusz Kaczmarek said the Belarusian had worked "for a long time against the economic and defense interests of Poland."

He was arrested in a "joint undertaking between Polish intelligence and the Lithuanian services," Kaczmarek said during an interview broadcast on TVN24 television.

He refused to identify the suspect or divulge any further details. Officials in Lithuania could not immediately be reached for comment.

Poland, which has long pushed for democratic change in neighboring Belarus, has tense relations with Minsk.


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German state minister criticises Poland stance on Russia-EU.

Minister of State at the German Federal Foreign Office Gernot Erler has sharply criticised the stance assumed by Poland at talks on the conclusion of a new agreement on cooperation between the European Union and Russia. He said in an interview broadcast by the Berlin-Brandenburg radio station on Friday that such actions of Warsaw will cause Poland’s self-isolation.

In the words of the minister of state, the European Union has promised Poland to take steps that would make it possible to lift Russia’s embargo on the supply to Russia of Polish food products. However, an ultimatum linking this problem with the conclusion of a new agreement between the EU and Russia is inadmissible, the German diplomat stressed.

Erler believes that Warsaw’s actions create a problem also for Germany that in the first half of 2007 will assume the EU rotating chairmanship.


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China hopes to expand agricultural cooperation with Poland

The Chinese government attaches importance to and supports the China-Poland agricultural cooperation, Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu said in Beijing on Saturday.

Hui said when meeting with visiting Polish Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture Andrzej Lepper that the two sides should strengthen dialogues and consultations in agricultural field concerning agricultural technologies and agricultural goods trade.

Besides Beijing, Lepper will also visit southwest China's Yunnan Province, south China's Hainan Province and Shanghai Municipality.


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Vodka World Shaken, and Stirred, by Fruit Spirits

lmars Znotins/Northfoto, for The New York Times
Ansis Ansovs, showing off his bartending skills at Hedonia in Riga, says vodka should be made only from grain, although he prefers other drinks.

Polish lore has it that vodka was distilled from coal during Communist times after efforts to use chickens backfired. In Sweden, vodka was once produced from paper-mill residue. But vodka purists of today have little patience for alternative ingredients.

“Real vodka can only be made from grain or potatoes,” says Rolands Gulbis, chairman of Latvijas Balzams, the largest vodka distiller in the Baltics, whose vodka-making tradition dates at the very least to 1900, when Czar Nicholas II of Russia built a vodka storage house here. “If vodka can be made out of grapes, then we might as well call an apple an orange and rename brandy as beer.”

But the definition of vodka is no longer as clear as the transparent spirit itself.

A vodka war has broken out in Europe. On one side are traditionalists in Poland, Finland, Sweden and the Baltic countries who argue that only spirits made exclusively from grains, potatoes and sugar-beet molasses are worthy of the name. On the other are distillers in Italy, France, Britain, and the Netherlands who are fighting for a more liberal definition. They contend that vodka’s ingredients do not affect its taste.

After all, James Bond specified that his vodka martini should be “shaken, not stirred.” He never insisted it be made from grain or potatoes.

Finland, current holder of the European Union presidency and a country where vodka has long been a tonic for chilly nights, is pressing for European Union legislation to require vodka made from nontraditional ingredients like grapes, other fruit, or even maple syrup, to say so in large bold letters on the bottle.

But rival vodka makers, including Diageo of Britain, the world’s biggest spirit maker, owner of the popular grape-based brand Ciroc and maker of Smirnoff, say this is little more than a cynical ploy by the Nordic and Baltic countries to try to monopolize the $12 billion global vodka market.

“The claims that vodka can only be made in a certain way are groundless,” says Chris Scott-Wilson, spokesman for the European Vodka Alliance, which is lobbying against the Finnish proposal on behalf of Diageo and other large vodka makers. “Saying that vodka’s taste derives from its ingredients is especially ridiculous when most consumers use vodka as a flavorless mixer with something else like tonic or orange juice.”

Traditionalists scoff at such remarks, arguing that good vodka has its own distinct flavor.

Critics of the proposed legislation warn that it risks spurring a global trade war with the United States, where novelty vodkas like Vermont Spirits Gold — made from maple sap — are growing in popularity.

The United States is the world’s fastest-growing vodka market, accounting for $724 million in European vodka exports. “If the E.U. tries to expel American vodka from Europe, then the U.S. will retaliate at the World Trade Organization,” said Alan Butler, director of government affairs at Diageo. The United States “would restrict European vodka imports into the U.S., and then we will have a trade war on our hands,” he said.

The vodka-belt countries of central and eastern Europe and Scandinavia argue that they are fighting to preserve a centuries-old tradition. “You don’t expect grapes in your beer, you don’t expect grapes in your vodka,” Mr. Gulbis said. “You buy beer because it is beer; you buy vodka because it is vodka.”

The origins of vodka, however, are hotly disputed. Russians will tell you that they invented vodka, so basic a drink there that the word itself is a diminutive of “water.” They point to distilling techniques that emerged in Russia in the 12th century.

But Poland, one of the countries lobbying most actively for the European Union legislation, also claims to be a vodka pioneer. As early as the eighth century, Polish peasants are said to have made crude alcoholic spirits by freezing wine, based on a secret recipe believed to have been brought to Poland by Italian monks. The first written record of vodka in Poland dates from 1404 in the Sandomierz Court Registry.

But Mr. Butler of Diageo and others say the origins of distillation rest with Arab traders, who used that process to make spirits from grapes in the 14th century.

Moreover, Mr. Butler argues, it was the Smirnoff family, distillers to the Russian court, who created the global vodka industry. The Smirnoffs left Russia after the 1917 revolution and began producing vodka in the United States in the 1930s, after Prohibition. The fashion for vodka cocktails was fueled by the success of a drink called the Moscow Mule (chilled vodka, ginger beer, lime and ice), which became popular with Hollywood celebrities in the 1950s.

“If it wasn’t for the U.S. there would be no global vodka industry,” Mr. Butler said. Countries like Finland and Sweden have only been producing vodka for decades, he added, noting that, until recently, Baltic, Swedish, and Polish vodka distillers had loose definitions of the drink.

Poles, for example, made vodka from apples and plums; in Latvia, vodka was previously called Degvins, or burned wine. These roots in fruit would seem to undercut the traditionalist argument. But Finnish and Swedish producers challenge Mr. Butler’s history. The Swedish distiller, Absolut, for instance, says it has made vodka since 1879 and that vodka has been a national drink in Sweden since the 17th century.

The vodka skirmish underlines the challenges the European Union faces in regulating a giant bloc of 470 million consumers where traditions, alcoholic or otherwise, run deep. Europe has already imposed geographic naming restrictions on 600 products ranging from wines to cheeses.

For example, only Greek companies that use goat milk and special production methods can market and sell feta cheese within the bloc, much to the annoyance of producers in Denmark and France. Belgium and Britain spent two decades arguing over what fat to allow in chocolate: Britain wanted to allow any vegetable fat; the Belgians demanded only cocoa butter. The French, noted an exasperated Mr. Gulbis, the Latvian spirits chief, insist that only bubbly from a northeast corner of France may be called Champagne, and yet their vodka producers are intent on making vodka out of grapes left from wine-making. Behind the bar at a hip Riga nightspot called Hedonia, Ansis Ansovs, 29, said serving vodka made from anything but grain would be sacrilege.

But he added that he is no great fan of vodka, which many young Latvians associate with the older generation and Soviet occupation. For himself, he said, “I would rather have a glass of wine.”


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Head of executive committee of National Meat Association: Poland does not have big influence on Russia’s meat market

The controversy over the ban on the meat import from Poland into Russia will not affect the Russian livestock production market as this situation has been present for many months already – almost since the beginning of 2006, the head of the Executive Committee of the National Meat Association (NMA) Sergey Yushin says in an interview to REGNUM.

To remind, following the ban of Polish beef import into Russia in 2005, Poland put a veto on the elaboration and conclusion of a new agreement on cooperation and partnership with Russia. The new agreement was supposed to replace the old one based on the realities of the 1990s and therefore unprofitable for present-day Russia.

Yushin says that this is more a political problem and it is having almost no effect on the development of Russia’s meat market. In 2006 Russia did not import any beef, pork or poultry from Poland; even more, the Polish import has never been big. In 2005 Russia imported almost 1,500 tons of Polish beef, while the total import was 650,000 tons – that is Poland’s share therein was less than 1%. The volume of pork import from Poland was bigger – 12,500 tons, but the total pork import was as much as 550,000 tons. Yushin notes that even though Poland did not import meat to Russia in 2006, the volume of animals for slaughter increased: almost 18,000 porkers in Jan-Sept 2006. So, one can’t say that the meat import embargo has dealt any big blow on Poland’s agriculture.

The key suppliers of livestock products to Russia are still Latin American countries; the loss of this channel would be much more painful for Russia, says Yushin. Besides, this year there has been certain rise in supplies from the EU (mostly of pork).

A REGNUM correspondent has asked Yushin if the meat import will be reduced as a result of the implementation of the priority national project “Development of Agro-Industrial Complex.” He says that it is early yet to speak about specific results; in order to reduce dependence on import, Russia should build new premises for agricultural enterprises, import new modern equipment, increase the number of livestock. “The present progress is due to the efforts of the previous years,” says Yushin. Nevertheless, the project can and must become an strong magnet for investments and will certainly pave the way for substantial progress in the future. Experts say that real progress will be seen as early as the second half of 2007.

However, in developing the agro-industrial complex and cattle-breeding in particular, one should care for quality rather than quantity. As long as foreign pork is better than the local one, there will be no significant reduction in the import. Today, there are a whole number of enterprises using modern technologies and applying modern approaches and due to them the import dependence will be gradually decreasing, says Yushin.

Source: regnum.ru

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Poland suggests Russia may have falsified documents in meat spat

Poland's justice minister suggested Saturday that Russia may have been behind forged documents accompanying Polish meat exports, the discovery of which led to a ban on Polish products.

Zbigniew Ziobro said the documents appeared to have been falsified outside Poland by people accustomed to the Cyrillic alphabet.

The Polish-Russian trade dispute has swelled into a larger standoff between Russia and the European Union.

Russia claims that Poland tried to get substandard meat onto the Russian market using fake health documents. Poland agrees that the documents were forged but claims that the meat was safe.

Poland vetoed the start of EU talks with Moscow on a new partnership pact that were to have begun at a summit on Friday because of a year-old Russian ban on Polish meat and grain products. Warsaw has vowed to block a new agreement until Russia lifts an import ban on Polish meat and grain products.

Russia imposed the ban on the Polish imports over a year ago. It says that Polish meat fails to meet health standards, and that Poland tried to get it to the Russian market with the falsified documents.

But Ziobro told Poland's PAP news agency that Polish meat is up to standard, and that prosecutors have evidence veterinary certificates testifying to their safety were falsified outside Poland to make the meat appear unsafe.

Ziobro said prosecutors in the southeastern Polish city of Tarnow have proven during a yearlong investigation that the documents were falsified by "somebody who on a day-to-day basis uses the Cyrillic alphabet," the script used in Russia and some other Slavic countries. He did not elaborate on how that was clear.

Poland uses the Latin alphabet.

Russian accusations that Poland tried to send meat to Russia backed up by falsified documents "have no basis in fact," Ziobro was quoted as saying.

"The certificates weren't even produced at the Polish Security Printing Works," Ziobro added, referring to the government's producer of official documents. They "were on a different paper."

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Friday called the Russian ban on Polish meat "an overreaction."

The spat is part of broader tensions between Moscow and Warsaw that have simmered since this former Soviet satellite threw off communist rule 17 years ago and began moving ever closer to the West.


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