Poland best for property investment in 2007

Investors looking to buy European property should head for Poland, according to an expert.

According to Simon Tweddle, head of research and analysis at Property Secrets, investment in Warsaw is particularly low risk.

The property expert said that Warsaw is a great place to put your money into because "it's a bit like London" with the low risks associated.

He said however that investing in Krakow or Gdansk could provide higher returns but at higher risk.

"Poland had been the best market in Europe in 2006 and it's looking as though it is going to continue in 2007 to be the best," Mr Tweddle commented.

He added: "Some of the secondary cities such as Poznan, Wroclaw, Gdansk and Lodz… offer slightly higher capital growth rates for a little bit more risk."

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Reports: Lenovo May Build PC Factory in Poland

Lenovo, the world’s third-largest personal computer manufacturer, is considering building a factory in Poland, according to media reports.

Lenovo, which is building a new headquarters in Morrisville, N.C., is considering a site in southwest Poland, according to the Polish news source Puls Biznesua. The plant would cost an estimated $15 million and would be used to assemble computers.

ShanghaiDaily.com, citing a report from the Bloomberg news service, said the plant would employ between 500 and 800 people.

Dell announced in September that it would build a $259 million plant in Poland to build PCs and computers.
Source: localtechwire.com

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Poland banks on Ukraine as former Soviet state looks westward

As thousands of Poles head west in search of jobs, Polish companies are looking east for profits.

Bank Pekao, a lender, plans to spend $100 million in 2007 to open branches in Ukraine, where fewer than one in 10 people have bank accounts. Grupa Kety, a maker of aluminum pipes, will open a factory in the former Soviet republic to take advantage of wages that are 70 percent of those in Poland.

Executives expect Ukraine to prosper as the government aligns itself more closely with Western Europe and builds a market economy. They point to Poland as an example of what can happen when capitalism takes hold. Poland's gross domestic product has quadrupled to more than $300 billion, giving it the largest GDP in Eastern Europe, during the 17 years since communism collapsed.

Ukraine "offers incredible opportunity for development, similar to what we have seen in Poland," said Piotr Stepniak, chief executive officer of Getin Holding, a financial services company owned by Leszek Czarnecki, one of Poland's new multimillionaires.

Polish companies' investment in Ukraine rose almost fivefold to $106.5 million in the first 10 months of 2006, according to the Ukrainian statistics office in Kiev. Getin agreed in December to buy Prikarpattya Bank, which has 30 branches in western Ukraine, for an undisclosed price.

"Polish companies have grown up," said Cezary Iwanski, vice president of Pioneer Pekao Investment Management, the biggest fund manager in Poland. "The Polish market will continue to grow, but in order to grow faster than the competition, companies need to build operations abroad."

Poland's development has had its problems. It has the highest unemployment rate in the European Union, at 14.8 percent in November, and the figure is declining mainly because of an exodus of workers to places like Britain and Ireland. More than 800,000 of Poland's 39 million people emigrated in the past year, according to official statistics.

Even as joblessness remains high, wages are rising at an annual rate of about 5 percent. Companies like Grupa Kety and Polski Koncern Miesny Duda, a meat packer, blame rising labor costs for their decision to go abroad.

"Polish companies haven't been that aggressive in the expansion into the east before," said Mark Mobius, who oversees investments in emerging markets at Templeton Asset Management in Singapore. "The companies are diversifying their earnings and they have a very good human resources base that they can use."

Western Ukraine and southern Lithuania, including the capital, Vilnius, were part of Poland before World War II, and large communities of ethnic Poles still live in the two countries. The links with Lithuania go back to the 14th century and lasted intermittently until the Soviet period.

PKN Orlen, the biggest oil company in Poland, completed its purchase of a Lithuanian refiner, Mazeikiu Nafta, for $2.34 billion last month, the largest international investment by a Polish company.

The population of Ukraine, at 47 million, is about one-fifth larger than that of Poland, while the $89 billion Ukrainian economy is less than a third as big as the Polish one. The Polish economy is expanding more than 5 percent a year; the government of Ukraine forecasts growth of 7 percent for 2006 and 2007.

Some investors are concerned that the battle between President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich for control of foreign and domestic policies may undermine political stability. The Ukrainian 7.65 percent dollar-denominated bond due June 2013 yields 6.08 percent, 0.84 percentage point more than the Polish 6.25 percent dollar-denominated bond of similar maturity. The higher yield is an indication that investors consider Ukraine a riskier place.

"Ukraine has enormous growth potential, but it's also a very risky market," said Sebastian Buczek, a fund manager at ING Investment Management Polska.

Duda, the meatpacker based in Jutrosin, Poland, wants to become as big in Ukraine as it is in Poland and is earmarking 100 million zloty, or $33 million, for acquisitions. The company, which started operating in Ukraine this year, plans to buy a meat producer and pork farms in coming months.

"Huge profitability and growth prospects make our investments there justified," said Maciej Duda, the chief executive.

Pekao is owned by UniCredit, the biggest bank in Italy, and is responsible for the bank's expansion in Ukraine. It is challenging lenders like OTP Bank of Hungary, which started making acquisitions abroad more than five years ago.

About 7 percent of adults in Ukraine have bank accounts, less than the proportion in Poland about a decade ago, according to Pekao. Now about 60 percent of Poles have accounts.

LOT makes plans for IPO

Poland's government expects LOT, the national airline, to sell new shares in an initial public offering late this year or early next year.

The IPO would leave about 30 percent of the company traded on the stock exchange, cutting the government's stake to about 50 percent from its current holding of 68 percent, Deputy Treasury Minister Ireneusz Dabrowski said in Warsaw on Thursday.

"The investment adviser who will bring LOT to the market will be selected by March," Dabrowski said.

LOT is fighting to win back customers after the rise of low-cost carriers cut its market share to 35 percent in the first half of 2006 from 47 percent a year earlier.

Source: By Marta Waldoch and Katarzyna Klimasinska, iht.com

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Warsaw shares close higher, led by Telecom Poland

WARSAW (AFX) 01.12.07, 2:50 PM ET: Warsaw shares continued yesterday's rebound, but on thinner volume, with the WIG 20 index led upwards by blue chip Telecom Poland, news agency Puls Biznesu reported.

The WIG 20 ended the session up 0.7 pct at 3,262.98, with a gain of 1.9 pct over the week.

Telecom Poland climbed about 3 pct, while other blue chips such as Prokom, GTC and BZ WBK also advanced.


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Shifting Ford's Ka replacement assembly to Poland will affect few Valencia workers - union

News agency reports yesterday included confirmation from Ford that it would shift production of the Ka from Spain to Poland, as was known from Ford’s agreement to build the current version’s replacement alongside Fiat’s forthcoming 500, sharing a common platform and powertrain, at Fiat’s Polish plant, next year.

According to the UGT union representing workers at Ford’s Valencia plant, the transfer to Poland would affect only a small number of Ford workers – 3% of some 7,400 or some 220, and the union’s general secretary Gonzalo Pino told the AFP news agency that agreement on alternative work for the Valencia plant was likely before year's end.


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Sikorsky buying Poland aircraft maker

Stratford-based Sikorsky Aircraft announced Wednesday it is expanding its foreign operations by buying aircraft-maker PZL Mielec of Poland for an estimated $84 million.

PZL Mielec is a wholly owned government business that makes civilian and military passenger and cargo planes. Sikorsky's move would almost have been unthinkable 20 years ago, said Forecast International Defense Analyst Raymond Jaworowski. "It's an example of globalization," Jaworowski said, adding he doubts a foreign-based corporation could acquire a U.S. defense contractor like Sikorsky.

For a reminder of how far Poland has come, the U.S. State Department's Web site describes that country's struggle with the Soviet Union over the nation's economy only 20 years ago. Workers staged multiple strikes in the 1980s as prices for meat and other goods continued to rise. At one point, Soviet tanks and soldiers assembled on the Polish border preparing to roll into the country and put down a revolt; martial law was instituted. It wasn't until 1989 that Poland began to have regular contact and diplomatic ties with the United States. Sikorsky's press release said Poland is a growing base for it and its sister companies owned by Hartford-based United Technologies Corp. In all, UTC has more than 7,000 employees in Poland, according to Sikorsky. Shares of UTC closed up 22 cents to $62.69 in Wednesday trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Just a month ago, Sikorsky announced an agreement with PZL Mielec to build he international version of its Black Hawk military helicopter.

The acquisition also pushes Sikorsky even further into making airplanes. Mielec is Poland's largest airplane maker, with 1,500 employees, according to Sikorsky. This builds on the Stratford helicopter company's 2004 purchase of airplane maker Schweitzer Aircraft.

Wednesday's deal is not expected to negatively affect jobs in Connecticut, according to Jaworowski.

Sikorsky has so much U.S. military work in Stratford, he said, it needs to buy more factories to give it the capacity to meet the demands of foreign and commercial markets.

Paul Nisbet, principal of JSA Research, said the European move makes sense for Sikorsky because "They have not done very well there."

Sikorsky has lost several head-to-head competitions to European-based helicopter makers, Nisbet said, but this purchase gives Sikorsky a European plant. He said Poland might also give Sikorsky a competitive advantage over European rivals who face high labor costs, because Poland's wages are lower than other European nations. And, like other Eastern European countries, it appears to have a large pool of engineers, he said.

"This investment establishes PZL Mielec as a key component of Sikorsky's long-range global strategy to meet worldwide demand for its products and services," said Sikorsky President Jeffrey Pino in a statement.

One foreign contract Pino might have his eyes on is the $500 million Turkish heavy lift contract that country announced Tuesday.

Sikorsky spokesman Edward Steadham said the company is reviewing the specifics of the Turkish contract, which would be for 10 helicopters, and has not yet decided whether to bid on it or not.

Doug Royce, another Forecast International analyst, said Sikorsky has done well in Turkey.

The Turkish military operates a fleet of Black Hawks and Sikorsky won a naval Sea Hawk contract in 2006.

Royce, however, said Sikorsky's CH-53 Super Stallion, which some analysts say would be the logical choice to enter in the competition, may not be available. Sikorsky is redeveloping the CH-53 for the U.S. Marine Corps and would not have a model available for the Turks until about 2014, Royce said, so entering the contest might depend upon when the Turks want the helicopter. Rob Varnon, who covers business, can be reached at 330-6216.


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EU energy strategy too general for Poland

The recent conflicts over oil and gas prices and tarrifs on the Moscow-Minsk line have prompted the EU to give its energy security policy a more careful scrutiny. Poland, which has been striving to extricate itself from Russian energy supply dependency inherited from the Communist past, has special interest in finding effective diversification solutions.

After a three day break deliveries of Russian oil through Belarus have been resumed. Head of the Belarusian government Siarhei Sidorski is in Moscow for two days of crucial trade related talks with his Russian opposite number Michail Fradkov.

' The subjects will concern crude oil and oil products as well as other sensitive groups.'

But the bitter memories of the last few weeks of uncertainty concerning the stability of supplies coming from Russia through transit countries have left their impact. European Commission chairman Jose Manuel Barroso appealed for greater Union solidarity in tackling energy issues. He referred to the negative experience with Russian partners while presenting outlines of the EU's energy strategy prepared by the Commission.

' We are proposing to endorse the needs to make further progress in solidarity between member states in the event of an energy crisis or disruption in supplies.'

One of the main tenets of this Union energy strategy is diversification of supplies and their transport. That is why Brussels has left almost intact its priority list of energy related projects. One of the major points there is the Baltic gas pipeline linking Russia with Germany..... and bypassing Poland. This project has raised considerable controversy with the Polish authorities, reminds Beata Plomecka, Polish Radio correspondent in Brussels.

' For Poles the most important element in this energy strategy was that part of the document which deals with solidarity. And eventhough there are some sentences concerning solidarity, there are hardly any examples or statements how this solidarity would look like. These are just general remarks. There is also a list of 42 energy projects. And there's one which raises special concerns in Poland, namely the Baltic pipeline. Poland is afraid it is a threat to its energy security. However, the European Commission underlines that every project is important which guarantees supplies of energy.'

Polish experts see the Union energy strategy as an important policy document, but call for a true liberalization of the international energy market. They also point to the general character of the appeal for EU member solidarity in crisis situations, which means Poland must put greater stress on securing its own interests. Marcelina Golebiewska from the Institute for Energy Strategy in Warsaw is not surprised by the neeed for such an approach.

' European countries are not yet ready for this kind of solidarity, not only because of varying interests, but also due to differing levels of supply capabilities regarding specific raw materials. This strictly technical aspect is responsible for European countries not being ready to generate a common energy policy.'

Independent fuel market analyst Andrzej Szczesniak is even more straightforward in his assessment of the sitaution as far as Polish actions are concerned.

' We (Poland) have to be prepared and not forget the lesson of a dry oil pipeline. Years have passed and all initiatives forwarded have not materialized. This has led to energy security being an empty political slogan without any consequence. Meanwhile, all kinds of adverse developments may take place. The lack of a sound policy concerning energy security has become a dangerous burden for Poland.'

Apart from traditional means of energy generation, the EU strategy in this respect devotes much attention and stress on renewable energy. This has been a much neglected area in Poland and devoting more attention to this form could prove a beneficial move.
Source:By Slawek Szefs, polskieradio.pl

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FOX Life Debuts in Poland

Fox International Channels’ FOX Life has entered the Polish market on the Polsat Digital Platform in the Relax Mix package.

The channel, whose motto is “Because life should be juicy”, airs first-run and current television series, entertainment programming and reality shows 18 hours a day in the Polish language.

Poland is the first Eastern European country to introduce FOX Life, which will feature hit series such as Desperate Housewives, Will & Grace, Ally McBeal, Grey’s Anatomy, and Las Vegas. In addition, reality shows such as The Simple Life, featuring Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, and So You Think You Can Dance? will also be broadcast on the network.

FOX Life first launched in Italy in May 2004. Since then it has rolled out in Japan, France, Turkey, Portugal, Bulgaria and Latin America.


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New head of National Bank of Poland sworn into office

Poland’s Parliament green lighted Slawomir Skrzypek, the government’s candidate for the head of the country’s central bank, the National Bank of Poland. Skrzypek is not an economist but has spent the last four months as acting chief executive of Poland’s largest bank PKO BP. Markets reacted cautiously. The zloty dipped a percentage point after Parliament approved the nomination.

National Bank of Poland head Slawomir Skrzypek wasted no time in telling reporters that he intends to be an independent when deciding about the country’s monetary policy.

'I always stressed that being independent is one of the most important pillars in the position of central bank head. This independence which is stated in the Constitution is also a measure I will abide by as well.'

The markets reacted cautiously after Parliament approved Skrzypek’s nomination as central bank head. Economist Marcin Belbin from Peako SA says that Poland’s domestic currency the zloty dropped one percentage point.

'The initial market reaction was the sell off of assets, zloty , bonds and stocks so the initial reaction was negative and the investors attitude towards the entire emerging markets is at the moment rather cautious.'

Market flows determine just how high or low the zloty stands. The zloty at the end of the year was very strong. Wednesday’s correction may be the result of the way the currency flow is reacting at the moment and not necessarily due to a change of governor at Poland’s central bank. So what could be the most pressing challenge for the new NBP head right now? Economist Stanislaw Gomułka:

'Monetary policy is determined by a collective of ten people of which the governor of the central bank is just one. We will see how that body responds to challenges on the inflation front in the next several quarters. Officially he says that he is in favor of low inflation and a strong zloty. On the other hand we know that they are in favor of a little more active pro-growth monetary policy.'

NBP head Slawomir Skrzypek didn’t say what challenges await him though he emphasized that he wants to keep inflation low. He kept clear of any questions regarding when Poland is expected to join Euroland.
Source:By Bogdan Żaryn, polskieradio.pl

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Poland Banks on Ukraine as Ex-Soviet State Looks West

As thousands of Poles head west in search of jobs, Polish companies are looking east for profits.

Bank Pekao SA, the country's second-largest lender, plans to spend $100 million in 2007 to open branches in Ukraine, where fewer than one in 10 people have a bank account. Aluminum pipemaker Grupa Kety SA will open a factory in the former Soviet republic, to take advantage of 30 percent lower wage costs.

Executives expect Ukraine to prosper as the government aligns itself more closely with Western Europe and builds a market economy. They point to Poland as an example of what can happen when capitalism takes hold. Poland's gross domestic product has quadrupled to exceed $300 billion, the most in eastern Europe, during the 17 years since communism collapsed.

Ukraine ``offers incredible opportunity for development, similar to what we have seen in Poland,'' said Piotr Stepniak, chief executive officer of Getin Holding SA, a financial services company owned by Leszek Czarnecki, one of Poland's new multimillionaires.

Polish companies' investment in Ukraine rose almost fivefold to $106.5 million in the first 10 months of 2006, according to the Ukrainian statistics office in Kiev. Getin agreed in December to buy Prikarpattya Bank SA, which has 30 branches in western Ukraine, for an undisclosed price.

``Polish companies have grown up,'' said Cezary Iwanski, vice president of Pioneer Pekao Investment Management SA, Poland's biggest fund manager, with assets of 23.3 billion zloty ($7.8 billion). ``The Polish market will continue to grow, but in order to grow faster than the competition, companies need to build operations abroad.''

Western Emigration

Poland's development hasn't been problem-free. Unemployment remains the highest in the European Union, at 14.8 percent in November, and is declining mainly because of an exodus of young workers to places such as the U.K. and Ireland. More than 800,000 of Poland's 39 million people emigrated in the past year, according to official statistics.

Even as joblessness remains high, wages are rising at an annual rate of about 5 percent. Companies such as Grupa Kety and Polski Koncern Miesny Duda SA, the third-biggest Polish meat packer, blame rising labor costs for their decision to go abroad.

``Polish companies haven't been that aggressive in the expansion into the east before,'' said Mark Mobius, who oversees $30 billion invested in emerging markets at Templeton Asset Management Ltd. in Singapore. ``The companies are diversifying their earnings and they have a very good human resources base that they can use.''

Polish Empire

Western Ukraine and southern Lithuania, including the capital Vilnius, were part of Poland before World War II, and large communities of ethnic Poles still live in the two countries. The links with Lithuania go back to the 14th century and lasted intermittently until the country was annexed by the Soviet Union.

PKN Orlen SA, Poland's biggest oil company, completed its purchase of Lithuanian refiner Mazeikiu Nafta AB for $2.34 billion last month, the largest international investment by a Polish company.

Ukraine's population of 47 million is about a fifth larger than Poland's, while the $89 billion economy is less than a third of the size. The Polish economy is expanding more than 5 percent a year, while Ukraine's government forecast growth of 7 percent for 2006 and 2007.

Some investors are concerned the battle between President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych for control of foreign and domestic policies may undermine political stability. Ukraine's 7.65 percent dollar-denominated bond due June 2013 yields 6.08 percent, 84 basis points more than Poland's 6.25 percent dollar-denominated bond of similar maturity. A basis point is 0.01 percentage point.

``Ukraine has enormous growth potential, but it's also a very risky market,'' said Sebastian Buczek, a fund manager at ING Investment Management Polska SA, which has 13.4 billion zloty under management.

`Huge Profitability'

Duda, the meatpacker based in Jutrosin, wants to become as big in Ukraine as it is in Poland and is earmarking 100 million zloty for acquisitions. The company, which started operating in Ukraine this year, plans to buy a meat producer and pork farms in coming months.

``Huge profitability and growth prospects make our investments there justified,'' said CEO Maciej Duda.

Pekao is owned by Milan-based UniCredit SpA, Italy's biggest bank, and is responsible for the bank's expansion in Ukraine. It's challenging lenders such as Hungary's OTP Bank Nyrt., which started making acquisitions abroad more than five years ago.

``The market is certainly very well located, and geography matters,'' said Chief Executive Jan Krzysztof Bielecki. ``The level of penetration is low.''

Building Demand

About 7 percent of adults in Ukraine have a bank account, less than the proportion in Poland about a decade ago, according to Pekao. Now about 60 percent of Poles have accounts.

Grupa Kety has spent 50 million zloty on opening an aluminum products plant in Borodianka. It may spend an additional 30 million zloty if the company keeps attracting new Ukrainian clients, CEO Dariusz Manko said.

``It's trendy to go eastward,'' said Buczek, the fund manager at ING in Warsaw. ``It took these companies several years to build their position in the Polish market, and now it will require some time to repeat the success abroad.''

Source:By Marta Waldoch and Katarzyna Klimasinska, bloomberg.com

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Supermarket giant recruits in Poland

Britain’s’ largest retailer sources its produce from all over the food – tuna fish from the Maldives, pineapples from Brazil, baby beans from Zambia and now it gets its workers from Poland.

Unemployed Norwich folk are bitter at the supermarket giant Tesco after it says it was forced to recruit from Poland because it could not fill the positions locally.

According to the city’s Evening News, bosses from the Blue Boar Lane branch in Sprowston staged a recruitment fair in Poland after being unable to find staff in the city and five per cent of the 650 staff at the store are now Polish.

But people desperately looking for jobs in the city have claimed that they had applied to Tesco for work, only to be told there were no vacancies available.

Locals shunned

Walter Green, of Plantsman Close in Norwich, said he went to the customer service desk at the Blue Boar Lane store several times last year and was told there were no jobs.

The 70-year-old, a trained carpenter who lives with his wife Elizabeth, 68, said: “I applied for any job going but as they said there were no jobs I never got as far as filling in an application form.

“I wanted some extra money to help tide me and my wife over because the pension here is not exactly great.

“I was just looking for a part-time job and I would have been prepared to do anything. I would have helped stack shelves.”

Stephen Ling, 57, of St Mildreds Road, West Earlham, filled in an application in autumn last year to work in any position in the store.

“They replied saying they had no vacancies to suit me,” he said.

Elaine Berks, of Gertrude Road, Norwich, said: “My son and I have both tried to get employment with the Blue Boar Lane branch and failed. What do they want - brain surgeons? It's rubbish that they can't get suitable employees here.”

A Tesco spokesman said: “Without exception we try to employ locally first. That people were looking for work does not necessarily mean Tesco was recruiting at the same time.
there first.”

The spokesman added: “We would be delighted to receive local interest in the future when positions become available".
Source: bnp.org.uk

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Poland Parliament to Vote on Bank Chief

Poland's parliament was to vote Wednesday on whether to install an associate of President Lech Kaczynski as head of the central bank amid opposition allegations of "cronyism."

Slawomir Skrzypek, 43, is a U.S.-trained economist with a background in public administration and auditing who most recently served as acting president of a major state-dominated bank, PKO BP.

He had no background in monetary policy or banking before his appointment as PKO BP deputy president in December 2005. He was promoted to acting president in September 2006.

But Skrzypek is a trusted and longtime colleague of President Kaczynski, serving under him in parliament in the mid-1990s and at Warsaw city hall from 2002-2005 when Kaczynski was mayor. Kaczynski nominated him for the central bank post on Jan. 3.

Announcing the nomination, Kaczynski's office said Skrzypek was an anti-communist activist who was interned and sentenced under martial law, introduced in 1981. It gave no details of the court sentence.

Skrzypek's limited experience and ties to the government have triggered complaints he may be more easily influenced by politicians, limiting the National Bank of Poland's independence.

"The limits of incompetence have been exceeded," said Stefan Niesiolowski, a senator with the main opposition Civic Platform, which plans to vote against Skrzypek. "We see this as a case of cronyism."

Two other opposition parties _ the Democratic Left Alliance and the Polish Peasants' Party _ have also pledged to vote against Skrzypek.

The three-party government led by Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the president's twin brother, is slightly short of the 231-vote majority in the 460-seat lower house of parliament needed to approve Skrzypek in the vote scheduled for Wednesday evening. However, they can count on support from minor groupings that should allow Skrzypek to be confirmed.

If approved by parliament, Skrzypek would succeed Leszek Balcerowicz, whose six-year term expires Wednesday. Balcerowicz appealed Tuesday to his successor to continue his free market policies, which have guided Poland's inflation rate to about 1.4 percent, among the lowest in the European Union.

In a recent statement, Skrzypek vowed to "protect the value of Poland's money" and respect transparency if he becomes chief banker.

"I am for a stable and credible money policy. I am an opponent of abrupt changes," he said.

Balcerowicz advocated a quick adoption of the euro, a stance that has put him at odds with the current leadership. Skrzypek has said he believes the euro should be adopted at a time most convenient for Poland.


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Poland Grants Free Worker Access To 11 EU And EFTA Countries

Poland is granting seven EU member states and the four European Free Trade Area (EFTA) countries free access to its labour market, the Polish Minister of Labour, Anna Kalata, said Wednesday.

Announcing the lifting of the labour market restrictions in Warsaw, Kalata said that free access to the labour market was one of the "fundamental rights of the EU."

Under the new regulations, citizens of Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, Denmark, France, Luxembourg and Belgium are entitled to work in Poland without a work permit.

Citizens of the four EFTA countries, Sweden, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway will also be allowed free access to the Polish labour market.

Kalata did not expect the Polish unemployment rate, which is currently 15 per cent, to be adversely affected.

Earning opportunities in Poland meant that the citizens of the EU and EFTA countries would not be particularly interested in the Polish labour market, she said, in a reference to the large disparity in incomes between Poland and its western and northern neighbours.

In 2005, 1,600 citizens of EU member states sought employment in Poland and in the first six months of 2006 there were 433 jobseekers from Poland's western neighbours.

Ireland, Britain and Sweden, which opened their labour markets to Poland when the country joined the EU in May, 2004, have had full access to the Polish jobs market since then.

Meanwhile, research published Wednesday by the Polish research institute, ARC, shows that unemployment rates amongst Poland's rural population are as high as 58 per cent.

ARC's research, which focused on the problem of unemployment in rural Poland for the first time, found high rate of long-term unemployment in rural areas of Poland, according to Adam Czarnecki of the research institute. Almost 58 per cent of agricultural workers had been unemployed for more than three years.

Farmers and other agricultural workers do not normally appear in Polish unemployment statistics owing to their official status.

Farmers are entitled to social insurance and are expected to make their living from agriculture. Farmers' income, especially that of small farmers with less than 15 hectares of land, was found to be shockingly low.

Only 12 per cent had an income comparable with the national average and many were living on the poverty threshold.

At least 40 per cent of respondents had a per capita income of less than 500 zloty (172 dollars).

Seasonal work abroad was one way that farmers could supplement their meagre incomes.

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Poland side-steps Russian oil cut-off

Poland has arranged for seaborne deliveries to help boost its oil supply after Russia cut off deliveries via the Druzhba pipeline amid a row with Belarus, Polish officials said today.

Deputy Economy Minister Piotr Naimski said Poland’s oil supply situation was under control, and that seaborne oil deliveries should arrive “in a matter of days.”

Naimski would not comment on specifics about the deliveries, saying it was a matter for Poland’s two major refineries.

He said Poland had informed Germany that it was ready to help supply two German refineries that also had their oil deliveries interrupted due to the trade spat between Minsk and Moscow that erupted Monday.

The European Union’s only oil terminal capable of pumping seaborne crude shipments into the Druzhba pipeline – which terminates at the Leuna and Schwedt refineries in eastern Germany – is in the Polish Baltic port city of Gdansk.

Polish Foreign Minister Anna Fotyga and Naimski said the pipeline shutdown buttressed Poland’s arguments for a collective European energy policy and its opposition to the German-Russian project to build a gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea.

“Our offer to the German refineries is an example of Polish solidarity,” Fotyga said. “We expect similar solidarity from our partners in the EU, which we have long believed is the only basis for energy security for the whole of Europe.”

Poland, which receives around 96% of the oil it consumes via the Druzhba pipeline, is pushing to diversify its energy supplies to wean itself off Russian deliveries.

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Ford denies plans to build car plant in Poland

ord Motor Co. today denied a newspaper report that it is planning to build a $273 million car plant in Poland, the biggest of the European Union's former communist economies.

Citing government sources, the Puls Biznesu daily reported that Ford is close to signing a deal with Polish authorities to invest more than $273 million (820 million zlotys) in producing its Ka compact model in the southern city of Tychy.

"I deny that we are planning to build a car factory in Tychy for 820 million zlotys," said Monika Dobrolubow, spokeswoman for Ford's Polish unit.

She said that under an earlier deal with Italy's Fiat to cooperate on producing small cars in Europe, the two companies plan to produce 240,000 cars annually in Poland.

"Both companies are working on these models, which will be manufactured in Fiat's existing factory in Tychy," Dobrolubow said. She declined to say how much the two companies are set to invest in the venture.

Fiat is the biggest carmaker in Poland with total production of mainly compact models reaching nearly 287,000 units in 2005.

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Metro International Closes Metro Poland

Metro International S.A. ("Metro International"), the international newspaper group, announced that it is discontinuing the activities of its wholly-owned subsidiary TPP Sp. z o.o. ("Metro Poland") which publishes the free daily newspaper Metropol in a number of cities in Poland. Friday 5 January 2007 was the last day of publication for Metropol.

Luxembourg, Luxembourg & Warsaw, Poland, January 9, 2007 -- Metropol was launched in Warsaw in 2000 and had grown to become one of Poland's largest daily newspapers. Despite this, Metro Poland's financial performance has been below expectations and local market conditions have proved difficult for the press sector as a whole and the free press sector in particular.

The closure of Metro Poland will result in a one-off charge in Metro International's financial results for the quarter ending 31st March 2007 and will be earnings enhancing for the full year ending 31st December 2007. Cash and non-cash closure costs are estimated at circa US$2.5 million. Metro Poland, which employed 70 full time-employees, had unaudited sales of US$5.2 million and an EBIT loss of US$ 3.7 million for the year ended 31st December 2006.

Pelle Törnberg, CEO and President of Metro International said "Despite local management's success in establishing Metropol as a trusted and innovative newspaper on the Polish media scene, Metro Poland has failed to meet the required profitability and growth criteria set for each of our operations. We have thus taken the decision to exit the Polish market and close down Metropol in order to focus our resources on higher growth and larger scale strategic markets. With the sale of Metro Finland announced earlier and today's announcement of the closure of Metro Poland we have successfully enhanced the attractiveness of our portfolio of mature operations and we are more than ever committed to reaching the right balance between growth and profitability for the benefit of our shareholders".

About Metro International:
Metro is the largest and fastest growing international newspaper in the world. Metro is published in over 100 major cities in 20 countries across Europe, North & South America and Asia. Metro has a unique global reach - attracting a young, active, well-educated Metropolitan audience of over 18 million daily readers. Metro has an equal number of male and female readers, of which 70% are under the age of 45. Metro's advertising sales have grown at a compound annual rate of 44% since the launch of the first edition in 1995.

Metro International S.A. 'A' and 'B' shares are listed on the Stockholmsbörsen 'O-List' under the symbols MTRO SBD A and MTRO SBD B


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Poland to face shortage of policemen

According to a confidential report prepared for the High Command of the state police Poland may face a serious shortage of police force within the next six months. The shortage may reach 16 thousand policemen that is one in eight of those currently in service. Many of those leaving are heading for the British Isles. They can easily find employment in Police Service of Northern Ireland, Garda Siochana in the Republic of Ireland or work as body-guards in Great Britain. Garda alone plans to hire 1000 policemen this year and a group of Polish policemen has already completed their Irish training. The reason of this massive migration is major discrepancy between Polish and British salaries. Popular daily “Dziennik” quotes an anonymous policeman who moved from Poland to London as saying that his first salary in new place was exactly the same as in Poland only the currency was different which means approximately six-fold increase.
Source: polskieradio.pl

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Ortis SA, Poland, invests in Goss M-600

n a market driven by customer demand for high print quality at competitive prices, established offset printing house, Ortis SA has invested in a new Goss M-600 C press, to streamline productivity and increase efficiency.

The new press will be located at the company’s facility in Bydgoszcz, in the West of Poland, and will be used to print magazines, catalogues, promotional material and books for the domestic market, as well as a number of other European countries.

According to Jadwiga Mojzesowicz-Bilewska, president of Ortis (pictured right), 'Competition in the commercial market is very high, so understanding our customers’ specific needs is the key to our success. We constantly evaluate our service offerings through market research and customer surveys to gauge expectations and requirements and over the years, we have noticed a growing demand for faster turnarounds on shorter run lengths but still with the requirement for excellent printing quality.'

Ortis SA has chosen the M-600 web offset press in order to better service its clients, citing the proven design of the press model as the key factor to its decision, 'We wanted a press that would increase our existing capacity and enable us to meet current and future customer demand. The M-600 press is well-known for its solid reliability and excellent print quality and in addition, its ability to achieve faster makereadies through the Autoplate plate changing system will enable us to deliver to our customers much faster,' confirmed Mojzesowicz-Bilewska.

Ortis SA currently runs three web offset presses and one sheetfed press. The installation of the M-600 press will open up new business opportunities for the company including a range of new products.

With a speed of up to 55,000 impressions per hour, the M-600 press at Ortis will include extensive waste reduction features that make it ideally suited to print shorter runs competitively. In addition, the order comprises the award winning and revolutionary Goss Ecocool dryer that improves print quality, enhances web control and reduces space requirements.

Mojzesowicz-Bilewska concluded, 'We have recently adapted our on-site facility to include a warehouse and have purchased perfect binding and saddle-stitching equipment. We are confident that our investment in the Goss M-600 press will increase our competitive positioning in the market and enable us to explore new production possibilities.'

Ortis SA offer a diverse range of polygraphic services across Europe connected with printing and binding magazines, promotional materials and books. Its list of customers includes publishers such as Egmont and Edipresse, Kaufland, Metro, Aga Press and international advertising agency McCann Erikson, as well a number of national retailers.

Based in Bydgoszcz in Poland, Ortis was founded 60 years ago and employs a team of 310. It is part of a consortium with Prasowe Zaklady Graficzne SA in Wroclaw and is in co-operation with Drukarnia Poznanska Ltd. It is also the founder and one of the main shareholders of the joint stock company Artis ID which is the largest producer of plastic cards in Middle and Eastern Europe.

The choice of Goss technology and expertise by Ortis reflects Goss International’s continuing success in the Polish market. The domestic graphic arts business has been growing constantly since the 90’s, and printing activities are now contributing significantly to the economic growth of the country. Goss International has played a key role in this expansion over the last decade, installing close to two-thirds of the new web offset commercial presses in Poland.

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Poland's Central Bank in limbo as uncertainty continues over next MPC sitting

Poland's Central Bank remains in limbo as incumbent governor Leszek Balcerowicz refused to rule out he could be forced to call the next monetary policy council (MPC) sitting in case his successor is not appointed on time.
"I cannot say now that it will be necessary [to call the sitting], I will take any decision tomorrow," he told a Tuesday press conference.

Balcerowicz's term expires January 10, the day Parliament is expected to vote on his successor, Slawomir Skrzypek, currently acting CEO of top commercial bank PKO BP. The nomination of Skrzypek has been criticized, as he has no monetary-policy experience, though is a well-regarded manager. The governor is the only institution allowed to call MPC sittings. An acting governor cannot do so. The MPC had been scheduled to meet on January 23.

"In line with the schedule, the next meeting of the MPC will be held on 23 January 2007 and will be devoted to discussing the draft Inflation Report," the MPC wrote in a communiqué after its December sitting.
Source: onet.pl

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Poland's former PM's son's suspicious million dollar deal

In 2000, the son of a prominent post-communist politician, Leszek Miller, was involved in a suspicious transaction that made him earn one million dollars without investing anything. Was this a huge bribe for the son of the soon-to-be Prime Minister of Poland? The police finally get down to investigating the case that has remained in the dark over the past 6 years.

Another major corruption scandal involving post-communist politicians from the left wing Democratic Left Alliance party (SLD) may be brewing.

This time it's the son of the former Prime Minister of Poland, Leszek Miller, who earned one million dollar in mysterious circumstances back in the year 2000. The money came to Leszek Miller junior from an even more mysterious fund in the Bahamas and were, officially, a commission for a transaction, in which the young businessman's wife firm acted as an intermediary.

The prosecutor's office is investigating whether this is yet another giant corruption case of bribery and money laundering.

At the time of the transaction, Leszek Miller junior was a young and inexperienced businessman, helping his wife, Irena Miller, with her newly founded company, Net Irena Miller.

Only two months after Net Irena Miller started operating, the couple were lucky to come across the business of their lifetime - they became the intermediary for a huge transaction that involved a mysterious fund from the Bahamas. Without investing a penny, young Millers became millionaires practically overnight. Following the stunning success, never participated in any other business transaction until the end of its existence in 2005.

Investigative journalist Paweł Reszka of the Dziennik daily finds the facts of the case intriguing:

'At the first look, it's a simple story. A young businessman earns one million dollars. He just buys shares and sells shares and he wins quite a big amount of money. But when you dig a bit deeper, the story is not so simple. The young businessman is the son of a very influential politician. A politician who will soon be the Prime Minister of Poland. He earns his fortune with no risk, investing no money at all and one million dollars flows to him from a secret monetary fund based in the Bahamas. The question is why, is it just a regular deal, or an example of political corruption? That is the most important and interesting part of the story.'

One other suspicious circumstance is the involvement in the whole affair of Jerzy Jędykiewicz, another prominent figure of the post-communist Democratic Left Alliance party (SLD), and a good friend of the Miller family. Jędykiewicz has faced charges of economic corruption in connection with other business dealings.

The possibilities of criminal connections do not surprise sociology professor and political commentator Andrzej Zybertowicz. Mass corruption and silencing thereof was not uncommon in the so-called 'Third Republic' - the period of post-communist government following the fall of communism in Poland 18 years ago, argues professor Zybertowicz:

'This whole situation is pretty typical for the so-called "Third Republic", I mean for the pathologies that the present coalition attempts to counter. The first issue is that this event of this big deal happened six years ago and it has been revealed to the public only now. I think that this is connected to the pathologies of the previous government. This absolutely sensational information that the son of the Prime Minister has earned at least one million dollars practically for nothing at no business risk and this information has not been revealed by any media, by any law enforcement agencies for six years. It's a sign of very deep unefficiency or sort of a conspiracy of silence among the media or state institutions responsible for oversight of such operations.'

Investigative journalist Paweł Reszka agrees that suspicious business dealings of the then ruling post-communist circles were commmon knowledge, but hardly anyone ever dared to seriously examine them:

'Everybody knew that such deals were very common in the Third Republic but there was no proof, just gossip.'

It is only recently that the law enforcement began to investigate the mysterious connections between business and politics. Earlier it was commonplace to silence facts discrediting the ruling post-communist political circles. Professor Zybertowicz again:

'If there was even a well-justified suspicion that some irregularities powered some economic operations and these operations were connected to high officials, both the state police and the prosecutor's office - the officials responsible for law enforcement - were not eager to examine the case. The reponsibility is in all the mechanism of the state machinery: the prosecutors, the functionaries of the state police, the operatives of the intelligence services should deeply explore such cases. They simply were not fulfilling their duties.'

According to the weekly WPROST, finally after over 6 years, the officials from the Bahamas will now cooperate with the Polish law enforcement system to explain the circumstances of the transactions.

Former Prime Minister of Poland, Leszek Miller of the post-communist Democratic Left Alliance party (SLD) denies ever being aware of the existence of his daughter-in-law's firm.

Some commentators have suggested, that it may not be coincidental that the materials discrediting Leszek Miller are coming to light now. It has not gone unnoticed that the scandal coincides with the long planned comeback to the political scene of Aleksander Kwaśniewski, Poland's former president, whose position on the left of the political spectrum could be stronger once competition is discredited and out of the way.
Source: By Joanna Najfeld, polskieradio.pl

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Poland cut off from Russian oil

The Russian Transneft company has broken off crude oil deliveries through Belarus for its partners in Western Europe, including Poland.
After an initial several hour break, Russian oil deliveries to Poland through Belarus have been stopped completely on Monday. Consequently, Germany fell victim to the same situation. Moscow explained the necessity of the move stemming from information that oil from the 'Friendship' pipeline had been illegally syphoned by the Belarusian side. However, the southern section of the pipeline linking the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary has also been closed, depriving these countries of Russian oil deliveries as well.

The European Commission has expressed concern with the present developments. Its spokesman Ferran Taradellas has demanded explanations to the sudden stop in oil deliveries to Union member countries, which are not a party to the conflict between Moscow and Minsk.

' The Commission is following the situation very closely. I can confirm there has been an interruption of oil supplies in Poland and my services are looking for information whether such a cut has had an impact on other branches of the pipeline, for instance, the one which goes to Slovakia and south-east Europe. I have also contacted Russian and Belarusian authorities calling on them to provide urgent and detailed explanation of the causes of this disruption.'

Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski said the Russian conflict with Belarus over tarrifs is a warning for Poland and other European importers of Russian oil to actively search for possibilities of creating a secure and flexible system of energy raw materials deliveries.

' I hope the 700 page European Commission document on energy security, which I haven't studied in detail yet, outlines EU policy in this respect with serious consideration of the challenges faced.'

Polish refineries responded to the surprise Russian imports cut off without panic, having reserves for eighty days of production demand. So far, they have pledged to maintain retail prices for their fuels. Quick moves have also been introduced to avert further danger of inadequate supplies by contracting sea transport from the Gulf region, but oil from Arab sources will cost more. And this might prove a handy argument to raise prices after all, simply taking advantage of the extraordinary situation, warns Tomasz Chmal from the Sobieski Institute, a body specializing in independent market analysis.

' The prices of oil in short term contracts may go up, influencing costs. It remains to be hoped that Polish companies will be able to cope with this problem.'

The problem with Russian oil deliveries comes on the heels of a gas imports crisis of barely a few weeks ago. Krzysztof Bobinski, editor of the Union and Poland magazine, says these examples clearly show it is high time to start practically implementing Polish declarations of diversification of energy import sources, however, some sober conclusions must be taken into consideration.

' What Russia seems to be doing is trying to get what they feel are fair prices out of countries which they percieve as conducive to their own interests. There really hasn't been any significant conflict between Russia and Belarus. Indeed, they are trying to get more money. So I think we should look at this to see what the Russians are doing themselves and what they are trying to achieve. Then we should sit down with the Russians and the European Union and work out a system where we could be sure of energy supplies. That is absolutely possible, but the main problem for the moment is that Germany doesn't want to work together with everyone else.'

The inevitable conclusion from the various conflicts over energy sources and sales, no matter what aspects or countries they may concern, is that neither side can afford to disregard its actual or even potential partners. It's a simple relation of money and merchandise. Having exclussively one or the other does not satisfy anyone.

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Nigeria: Poland - Reaching Out to Nigeria

Economic relations between Poland and Nigeria as well as other African countries have been growing steadily over the years. These ties will be strengthened with the participation of Nigeria and other countries in trade exhibition in that country that is a member of the European Union, writes Hilda Okoisor

By 2012, five years from now Poland, Europe's fastest growing economy, plans to host the world in a city classified as the fourth largest to showcase among other things, their enterprise, culture and opportunities.

Such opportunities would be in the area of business development, financial institutions, consulting companies and entrepreneurs association, with market incentives aimed at attracting foreign investors. Poland's position on the international arena continues to grow stronger, and also prides as a member nation of such important world bodies like European Union (EU) and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

As a way of positioning itself for the challenges ahead, and to let the world have a peep into its recently market oriented and open society, it is geared towards hosting a prestigious event on global scale such as the Expo being organised by the International Bureau of Exhibitions.

Organising an expo of the magnitude envisaged in 2012 is on the one hand an honour and elevation of the country's prestige in the comity of nations. It is also a confirmation of the country's credibility as a viable economic partner with immense potentials. Again, such world economic summit provides a development impulse that serves as an instrument for encouraging long-term economic activities; hence the reason Poland is devoting its utmost attention to gain the hosting right.

As the only European country applying for the organisation of EXPO, Poland sees it as an occasion to invite guests from across the world to their country, especially as it would create a unique opportunity to promote the country, which many analysts see as having the potentials to rise up to the challenges and responsibility of hosting an event of that magnitude, and within a space of ten years could compete favourably with industrialised nations like United Kingdom, Canada and United States.

The rising profile of Poland is traceable to the social and economic system transformation started in the early 1990's by its former President, Mr. Lech Walesa of the famous Solidarity Movement which has led to favourable development environment, to such an extent that today Poland is an investment haven, with numerous legislations enacted to ease foreign investments.

Already one of Poland's most important cities, Wroclaw, conducive for investments has been designated to host the event. With a population of about six hundred and fifty thousand people and located at the foot of the Sudety Mountains, and over the Odra River, separated by many tributaries and channels, Wroclaw is unique in many ways. For example the city harbours twelve islands with one hundred and twelve bridges, and has become a major centre of industries, trade, culture, university, science and also economic activities.

In 2005 alone, multinational organisations such as Siemens, LG Phillips, Volvo, Hewlett Packard, Whirlpool, Fagor, Wabco and 3M invested well over one billion Euros (abut one hundred and seventy billion Naira) in Wroclaw.

Also in nearby city of Kobierzyce, world electronics giant LG Phillips is investing as much as eight hundred million Euros (about one hundred and forty billion Naira) and this accounts for the largest single investment in Poland's history after the world war II.

Wroclaw is also an open and modern town offering excellent conditions for work due to high development dynamics and for leisure, thus providing the necessary attraction for investors and tourists alike. The city is notable for its vibrancy for life with a lot of young people, and where old and modern architecture meet with abundance of green areas.

For tourists, some historical monuments they may find attractive are the Ostrow Tumski which represents one of the most beautiful churches in the world built in the middle ages, and the Town Hall, located in the heart of Wroclaw, known as one of the most eminent gothic architectural samples. Another important sight to behold is the Market Place, which as they say in Poland is "veiled in an atmosphere of mystery" with its many interesting spots creating magic climate.

Worthy of note, as a tourist attraction while visiting Wroclaw is the "Panorama of Raclawice", a gigantic round building housing a panoramic picture measuring 120m x 15m in size, depicting the famous "Battle of Raclawice" during the Kosciuszko uprising in 1794.

Wroclaw, as an academic center also hosts such important institutions like the University of Wroclaw, Wroclaw Polytechnic and a medical academy. Ten Nobel Prize Laureates are known to have link to the city.

Having giving this historical background of Poland and its important city of Wroclaw, one is compelled to make a case for the hosting right of Expo 2012 to be given to Poland. Nigeria, as an important member of the global organization, the International Bureau of Exhibitions should play a role in this regard, considering the strategic partnership between the two countries.

As far back as early nineteenth century, Polish missionaries, and entrepreneurs were among the first to come to Nigeria, and offer help in the areas of healthcare provision, educational, cultural and economic development. Indeed, the polish missionaries are reputed for their immense humanitarian services to Nigeria unlike others that came to exploit our weaknesses and abundant natural and human resources for their own good.

It should be noted that though Morocco and South Korea are bidding for the same hosting right, but the point remains that Morocco up till today is not a member of the African Union and to Nigeria is of no strategic importance. Poland, on the other hand with its high level of industrial development and as the fastest growing economy in Europe can serve as a role model to Nigeria, as we stand to benefit from its rich history that has within a period of about twenty years catapulted to a nation of influence in global affairs.

A primary lesson in international relations is the ability to identify and do business with nations from which you are likely to maximize benefits for your citizens. Nigeria in this case would benefit significantly from an economic cooperation with Poland and one major step that it should take is to support Poland in its bid to host the Expo 2012.

To cite one example of Poland's assistance to Nigeria, I recall the humanitarian activities of Dr. Oswald Madecki who devoted the greater part of his life, serving Nigerians at the popular Sacred Heart Hospital, Abeokuta, Ogun State. In fact, historical accounts have it that this man died without leaving any savings, as he used all the resources available to him to help the poor and needy in the society.

From Abeokuta to Kano, Enugu, Jos and other Nigerian towns, we have different accounts of how Poles have contributed to the development of Nigeria. To support their bidding right for this all-important event would only lend credence to the maxim that one good turn deserves another, more so when such partnership portends great benefits to a developing nation such as Nigeria.

Source:By Hilda Okoisor Lagos, allafrica.com

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Yves Rocher Expands in Poland

Yves Rocher Polska, the third-biggest cosmetics retailer in Poland, is to open 17 new outlets in high-street locations and shopping malls over the next few years, starting with four store openings next year in Wrocław, Warsaw and Gdańsk.

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A 2nd blow to the Roman Catholic Church in Poland

A second prominent Polish clergyman left his post Monday amid allegations he collaborated with secret services of the Communist era, a day after Warsaw's newly appointed archbishop resigned in a similar scandal that shocked the nation.

The Reverend Janusz Bielanski resigned as rector, or head priest, of Krakow's prestigious Wawel Cathedral, burial place to Polish kings and queens, according to Robert Necek, a spokesman for the Krakow church.

Bielanski submitted his resignation to Krakow's archbishop, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, "in connection with repeated allegations about his cooperation with the secret services" of the Communist era, Necek said.

Dziwisz, longtime secretary of the late Pope John Paul II, "accepted the resignation," Necek added. John Paul served as priest and later archbishop of Krakow before his election as pontiff.

The move comes a day after Stanislaw Wielgus, archbishop of Warsaw only since Friday, stepped aside in a dramatic announcement made during what was supposed to have been his installation Mass. The revelations about him, and his sudden resignation, have rattled Poland and revealed deep divisions within the church.

Also Monday, Poland's top bishop, Cardinal Jozef Glemp, faced media criticism for defending Wielgus — a stance that put him at odds with the Vatican and many Polish faithful.

A Vatican spokesman, the Reverend Federico Lombardi, said Wielgus was right to resign because his past actions had "gravely compromised his authority."

But Glemp, who has served as Warsaw archbishop for the past 25 years and will continue in office until a successor is found, delivered a homily defending Wielgus. He called him "God's servant" and warned of the dangers of passing judgment based on incomplete and flawed documents left behind by the Communist authorities.

The Dziennik daily called Glemp's defense a "huge mistake."

"The primate stood before the faithful to tell them clearly that 'if it were up to me, Wielgus would have become archbishop,'" Dziennik's editor-in- chief Robert Krasowski wrote on the paper's front page. "He presented Wielgus as a victim of an assault, an innocent, hunted person. He didn't even mention that the archbishop lied to the last minute. That he lied to the pope, bishops and faithful."

Wielgus, 67, had tried to minimize reports of his collaboration, which surfaced two weeks after the pope named him to the job on Dec. 6. He insisted that his contacts with the country's feared Sluzba Bezpieczenstwa, or Security Service, were benign and routine.

Wielgus may have believed that there were no longer documents linking him to the secret police. General Czeslaw Kiszczak, who served as chief of secret services and minister of internal affairs during the Communist years, told the Polish clergy in the early 1990s that all files related to them had been destroyed, according to Adrzej Jonas, editor of the Warsaw Voice, a weekly newsmagazine.

But microfilm of some of the documents on Wielgus survived. They do not include any reports written by the bishop, though in one document a secret police agent praised him for providing information on fellow priests while teaching at the Catholic University of Lublin. He admitted deeper involvement Friday after Polish media published the documents, though he maintains that he did not spy on anyone or hurt anyone.

Two groups of experts, one from the church, said that the documents proved Wielgus's willingness to work for the secret police even though they do not prove what he did.

That judgment set in motion negotiations with the Vatican that ended with his resignation Sunday.

Any cooperation between the Polish clergy and the Communist-era secret police is troubling to Poles, as it is to people all over the former Soviet bloc. The Polish church under John Paul was considered a beacon of hope and encouragement to people opposing the Communists.

Poland screened thousands of people for past Communist Party collaboration in the early 1990s, but the process lost momentum until President Lech Kaczynski revived it last year. He has argued that the country's 1989 transition left much of the former Communist apparatus in place, fueling corruption and distorting democracy. He says that Polish society cannot move forward without making a clean break with that past.

But many people argue that the secret police files are in many cases too incomplete or unreliable for conclusive judgments and are too easily manipulated for political ends.

Wielgus said his contact with the secret police started when he applied to study in what was then West Germany.

He spent 1973-75 at the University of Munich and went there again in 1978 when Pope Benedict, then Josef Ratzinger, was teaching there.

He spent the rest of his career teaching philosophy at the Catholic University of Lublin where he served three terms as rector. John Paul appointed him bishop of Plock, north of Warsaw, in 1999 and he served in that post until being named archbishop of Warsaw.

The drama over Wielgus was, in part, a battle between opposing forces in the Polish church — mirrored in societies across the post-Soviet bloc — between those willing to forgive and forget and those who insist that past Communist collaborators be exposed and be excluded from positions of authority.

"Today a judgment was passed on Bishop Wielgus," said Glemp in a homily defending the prelate at the Mass on Sunday. "But what kind of judgment was it, based on shreds of paper photocopied three times over? We do not want such judgments."

Had the church managed to keep Wielgus in his new job, the program to purge former collaborators would have been severely weakened, said Jonas said.

"It wouldn't be possible to accuse somebody or blame somebody for being a spy or former member of the secret service if the archbishop of Warsaw was himself one," he said.

Source:International Herald Tribune, iht.com

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Russia-Belarus oil row hits supplies to Germany, Poland

Russian oil exports to Germany and Poland through Belarus were interrupted on Monday in a dispute spotlighting western Europe�s vulnerability to tension between Russia and its ex-Soviet neighbours.

Russia blamed Belarus, alleging that the republic was diverting oil pumped through the Druzhba pipeline to Germany and Poland. But authorities in the ex-Soviet republic said that oil was being taken as a form of transit fee imposed on January 1, although such payment had been rejected by Moscow.

And the chief engineer at Belarus state-owned company Gomeltransneft Druzhba, which operates the pipeline, told AFP earlier: �We did not cut it off. We are working. But there has been a reduction.�

The dispute between the two neighbours and the fallout further down the export line highlighted the European Union�s dependence on Russia�s vast energy supplies and vulnerability to instability on Russia�s borders.

However, the European Commission in Brussels said that there was no immediate threat to oil supplies within the European Union because inventories were high. The oil row follows a New Year�s dispute over a more than doubling of Russian gas prices for Belarus, which was resolved only hours before Moscow was set to cut supplies to the country of 10 million people.

The latest dispute began when Russia imposed new export taxes on oil sold to Belarus where the heavily state-managed economy relies largely on a refining industry based on Russian-subsidised energy imports.

Belarus retaliated against the January 1 tariff by imposing its own transit fee on Russian oil passing through Belarus to reach clients in western Europe. Russia�s deputy economic development minister, Andrei Sharonov, said that Belarus was �starting to take oil because Russia is not paying the illegally introduced tariff�, Echo of Moscow radio reported.

He warned: �One must not forget that Russia is Belarus� main market and number one economic partner. Because of this, we have the possibility to take adequate measures... and obtain a cancellation of the tariff.� However, Belarus insisted that it was acting legitimately and was not at fault for the energy shortfalls in western Europe.

�Belarus was not at fault for the drop in pressure in the Druzhba pipeline,� foreign ministry spokesman Andrei Popov said. Popov explained that the transit tariff gave Belarus the right to �introduce customs procedure� for oil in its territory. Negotiations on the oil fees crisis were scheduled to take place in Moscow on Tuesday, but Sharonov said this was now under question. A decision was likely to be made later Monday, he said.

About 100 million tonnes of Russian crude pass through pipelines in Belarus each year on the way west to customers in the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Slovakia, as well as Germany and Poland.

Druzhba means �friendship� in Russian, and the Druzhba pipeline supplies 18 million tonnes of oil to Poland each year and 22 million tonnes to the Schwedt and MIDER refineries in Germany.

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Strabag buys the 4th largest road constructor in Poland

The Swedish construction company NCC sold its subsidiary NCC Poland to Austrian-based Strabag. The selling price totaled 110 million euros. NCC Roads Poland is part of the NCC Roads business segment, which has operations throughout the entire value chain relating to asphalt, aggregates and paving. In 2006 NCC Poland had an annual turnover of 110 million € and 900 employees. The NCC headquarters in Stockholm explained the sale as resulting from the wish for "a stronger focus on the Nordic region". In 2006, Strabag had a turnover of 220 million euros in road construction in Poland, while employing 1.200 staff and workers. Total Strabag activities in Poland amounted to 500 million €.

According to expert predictions, Poland is likely to be the most dynamic location for infrastructure investment in the coming years. According to reports of the Polish ministry of Infrastructure, by the year 2013 a total of 35 billion € will flow into the development of road and highway infrastructure. No other country is experiencing as much investment as Poland. The Polish highway system is currently only 665 km long.

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n Rare Failure, Free Dailies Publisher Metro Folds Poland Paper

Metro International S.A., the high-flying publisher of free commuter dailies around the world, announced a rare reversal of fortune Monday, saying it had folded the paper that served several Polish cities.

Metro said the last edition of Metropol was published last Friday. It said Metro lost $3.7 million in 2006.

"Despite local management's success in establishing Metropol as a trusted and innovative newspaper on the Polish media scene, Metro Poland has failed to meet the required profitability and growth criteria set for each of our operations," Metro International President and CEO Pelle Tornberg said in a statement. "We have thus taken the decision to exit the Polish market and close down Metropol in order to focus our resources on higher growth and larger scale strategic markets."

Metro publishes free papers in more than 100 cities in 20 countries in Europe, North and South America, and Asia -- often roiling the newspapers that traditionally dominated the markets it enters. In the U.S., it publishes free dailies in New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia. Metro says its advertising sales have grown at a compound annual rate of 44% since the launch of the first edition in 1995.

Metro published the Polish paper Metropol through a wholly-owned subsidiary that it said it was shutting down.

Metropol was launched in Warsaw in 2000, and quickly became one of Poland's biggest dailies. But the paper's financial performance has been below expectations, Metro said, "and local market conditions have proved difficult for the press sector as a whole and the free press sector in particular."

Metro Poland had 70 full-time employees, revenues of $5.2 million and pre-tax losses of $3.7 million.


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Poland's Leading Pharmaceutical Product Manufacturer Selects TrackWise Software as its Enterprise Quality Management System

HOLMDEL, N.J., January 08, 2007 /PRNewswire/ -- Sparta Systems, Inc., (Sparta), the maker of TrackWise(R), and the market leader in enterprise quality and compliance management software, today announced that Polpharma SA, Poland's leading manufacturer of drug products and active pharmaceutical ingredients, has begun implementation of TrackWise as its enterprise quality management and compliance system.

TrackWise is a web-based tracking software tool for electronically managing, tracking, and trending quality, regulatory, and organizational compliance processes and action items across the enterprise. It meets electronic record and signature requirements in the United States (21 CFR Part 11) and Europe. TrackWise helps organizations increase efficiency and achieve compliance by automating workflow and facilitating trending and reporting.

Polpharma's goal of running lean quality operations and its dedication to continuous improvement led its quality assurance team to evaluate electronic systems that would replace decentralized, paper-based processes.

"Polpharma SA selected Sparta Systems' TrackWise software because it offers a complete and integrated solution for all quality processes," explained Andrzej Szarmanski, Quality Director, Polpharma SA. "The system can be deployed in any language, is fully configurable to support our business needs, and has a proven track record in the life sciences industries."

The TrackWise implementation is already underway at Polpharma's manufacturing site in Starogard Gdanski, Poland. The system will initially be used to manage internal Change Control, Deviations, Investigation, and Corrective and Preventive Actions. Later this year, Polpharma plans to deploy TrackWise for additional processes, including Audits, Observations, Document Management, and Customer Complaints.

"TrackWise will enable Polpharma SA to increase efficiency and improve decision making by capturing all quality related data in a centralized system," said Tali Weinberg, Territory & Account Executive at Sparta Systems Europe, Ltd. "The system will allow Polpharma SA to proactively analyze information, identify potential trends, and prevent potential quality problems."

"TrackWise not only provides us with cutting-edge technology, but also provides us with a great opportunity to improve management of key quality processes," commented Szarmanski. "TrackWise will enable Polpharma to reduce cycle time, increase procedural visibility, and instantaneously enforce quality control. The system is a universal driver to support continuous improvement by helping the company become even more competitive in today's complex business environment."

About Polpharma SA

Polpharma is the largest manufacturer of drug products and active pharmaceutical ingredients in Poland. Founded in 1935, Polpharma combines tradition and experience with modern technologies and the highest manufacturing standards. Polpharma specializes in the production of cardiological, gastrointestinal, and neurological drugs. It manufactures solid forms such as tablets, film coated and sugar coated tablets, capsules, effervescent tablets, and liquid drug formulations which include injectable preparations in polyethylene and glass ampoules, single and multi-dose eye drops, nasal drops and fluids for topical use. Polpharma's products are present in nearly 50 countries worldwide, with its primary markets in Central and Eastern Europe, and a strong position in Europe and the United States in the area of fine chemicals. Polpharma has representative offices in Russia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. More information can be found at http://www.polpharma.pl.

About Sparta Systems

Sparta Systems, Inc. is the industry leader for global quality and compliance management systems. Its TrackWise product is a web-based software application used by quality, manufacturing, and regulatory affairs professionals to manage quality and compliance issues across the enterprise. The company has more than 12 years of experience and an extensive customer base in the life sciences and other highly regulated industries. Sparta Systems offers its customers a complete solution for global quality management needs, including the onsite support required throughout the project lifecycle. More information about Sparta Systems and TrackWise can be found at http://www.sparta-systems.com.


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Poland Expects the Oil Back On within Hours

Polish Deputy Minister of the Economy Piotr Naimski says that supplies of Russian oil flowing through Belarus will be restored within hours. The Polish politician told journalists that he hopes that the incident is related only to temporary stoppages. The first time supplies were stopped was around 10:00 p.m. local time on January 7. The supplies were resumed and stopped again.
“Most likely,” Naimski suggested, “the problem is connected with the disagreement between Russia and Belarus over customs duties, but the situation once again shows us that the states of the former USSR, from our point of view, provide supplies very unreliably.”

Naimski added that the situation would not effect Poland's energy security. “The oil refineries have crude oil reserves to cover the next 80 days,” he said.

Belarus is insistently denying that Belneftekhim is responsible for the oil shutoff to Europe. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry has issued a statement claiming that pressure in the pipeline was reduced before the Belarusian section of the pipeline and that Minsk has no connection to the fact.

Transneft head Semen Vainshtok earlier accused Belarus of tapping Russian oil without authorization for the last two days.

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Poland wrestles with manual labor shortage

With unemployment hovering around 15 percent, it's hard to fathom how Poland could lack able bodies for work. But last fall, Filip Wilczynski pushed back an office building renovation by two months because he couldn't find workers to install the plumbing or lay bricks and tiles.

"Everybody's left for Britain or Ireland," said Wilczynski, who runs a gravel and construction company in Ostroleka, a small city 75 miles north of Warsaw. "There's nobody left to hire."

Lured by higher wages in Western Europe, doctors, architects and nurses have bolted since Poland joined the European Union in 2004. Some officials are warning of a brain drain to Poland's richer EU cousins.

But "brawn drain" is also taking a toll. Many employers have been left shorthanded, especially in the country's booming construction industry.

"It's difficult to find people because the vast majority of good workers has left," Wilczynski said. "Either the people here don't want to or just aren't capable of the work. I would need two supervisors for every worker just to make sure they know what they're doing."

On a muddy construction site in downtown Warsaw recently, electrician Robert Siudek was gazing up at the luxury apartment buildings covered in scaffolding rising around him.

"There's a ton of work right now, and not enough people to do it," said Siudek, who worked in France for five years before returning to Poland last February. "I think builders here would take almost anybody that came along."

He's contemplating a return to Paris in early 2007, where he says he could earn $3,400 a month.

"Nobody's going to pay me that much here," he said, adding that he brings in around $850 a month in Poland.

According to rough estimates, up to 1 million Poles have left this country of 38 million since it joined the EU in May 2004. (There are no official figures.)

"There is a large lack of workers in the Polish construction industry," said Zbigniew Bachman, director of the country's construction chamber of commerce. "We're talking about bricklayers, roofers, fitters, crane operators, bulldozer drivers, and operators of other equipment for building roads or buildings."

But the exodus west isn't the only culprit. The shuttering of technical schools that once trained the industry's labor, coupled with an ongoing building boom amid strong economic growth at 5 percent annually, has also squeezed construction companies.

Bachman said his association estimates the industry could absorb an additional 150,000 workers. But the question is where to find so many pairs of working hands.

Industry officials have called on Poland's government to open the country's labor market to workers from the east -- Belarus, Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria -- to help fill the gap.

Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski's government plans to adopt a Labor Ministry recommendation to open Poland's market to workers from Bulgaria and Romania, which joined the EU on Jan. 1.

The Labor Ministry is also drawing up a proposal that would streamline procedures allowing Ukrainians to work in Poland. (Poland maintains restrictions against countries not allowing Polish workers to enter.)

Warsaw hopes to have the new rules in place by early spring, in time for the start of the agriculture and construction season.

Last year, Kaczynski signed a deal abolishing double taxation for the growing number of Poles working in Britain, a move that may encourage some Poles to return home.

The ministry acknowledges the manpower shortage, and also argues that Poland's unemployment figures are inflated. It says some Poles working abroad still claim unemployment benefits at home, as do those working under the table in Poland, pushing up the jobless figure.

Estimates of the real unemployment rate range from 9 percent to 12 percent.

Unemployment tied to Poland's communist past also is a factor, the ministry says.

A sizable chunk of aging laborers who once worked the country's sprawling communist farms or large factories -- both of which have crumbled since the jump to a capitalist democracy in 1989 -- are essentially unemployable in the new economy.


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Springer turns to the east

German publishing giant Axel Springer may have had its bid for Haim Saban's ProSiebenSat 1 broadcast group nixed by Teutonic antitrust regulators, but it hasn't given up on its plan to become a leading Euro TV player.

It's little surprise that Springer, which still has 12% of ProSiebenSat 1, is turning on to TV. More noteworthy is that he's targeting Turkey and Poland, the largest not-yet-saturated European mass markets.

Springer, who owns Europe's biggest-selling daily newspaper, the tabloid Bild Zeitung, nevertheless, like all publishers, faces dwindling readership. Bild remains a reliable cash cow, but the question is for how long. In order to give advertising revenues a more stable footing, Springer topper Matthias Dopfner needs to push Springer's TV biz.

"Because the ProSiebenSat 1 deal didn't go through, their coffers are full and they've got money to spend. And their position in their core market is strong. So yes, their chances to expand into TV and the Internet, and become a much bigger player in Europe are excellent," says one investment banker who's operating in the same market as Springer and prefers to speak off the record.

In Germany, Springer recently set up a digital TV division and owns 27% and 27.4% in regional nets Hamburg 1 and Berlin TV, respectively. But apart from these tentative steps, Dopfner has turned his focus to the East.

In mid-November, Springer acquired a 25% stake in Dogan TV for e375 million ($490 mil-

lion). Dogan TV is Turkey's biggest broadcasting company, owning three of the top four local channels, Kanal D, Star TV and CNN Turk, as well as smaller nets. The Dogan web is part of the Dogan Hold conglom, which has a wide-ranging portfolio embracing everything from tourism to energy.

Shortly after, the Turkish conglom announced it would bid for ProSiebenSat 1 but then lost out to equity firms KKR and Permira. Even though at the time Springer insisted that the two developments were unrelated, the Dogan deal could have offered a backdoor into ProSiebenSat 1.

Only weeks after signing with Dogan, Springer inked a deal with Polsat, Poland's largest commercial broadcaster, for a 25.1% stake. The price tag of that stake was a hefty $320 million, which Springer's rival-bidder RTL was not prepared to pay.

Springer justified the high purchase price with the fact that under the new deal it will have the right to appoint Polsat's new financial topper and also two of the seven board members in addition to certain veto-rights. In other words, Springer will be able to throw more weight around the Polsat headquarters than a 25.1% stake might let one to assume.

Also, value of Springer's Polsat stake could increase by $65 million as the broadcaster is expected to go public before 2008.

Polsat deal means that Springer can expand its considerable presence in Poland as it already publishes the tabloid Fakt and national daily Dziennik, making it the country's second-largest newspaper publisher.

Another aspect that makes Poland extremely interesting to the Teuton conglom and its televisual ambitions, is the fact that the country is one of the largest TV markets in Europe in terms of household reach. With an ethnically homogenous population of around 38 million, Poland offers untapped advertising revenue potential.

Polish TV is dominated by pubcaster TVP, but Polsat's flagship channel maintains a healthy 15% audience share and the market is yet to mature.

"Poland is large and you can still make a deal there. As far as television is concerned, mass markets like France, Germany, Italy or the U.K. are closed shops," says the aforementioned investment banker.

However, trouble might still be ahead.

While Springer's Dogan deal has been approved by Turkish antitrust regulators, Polish media authorities may balk at allowing a foreign investor to add to its already powerful media presence in the country.

Springer papers, in particular Bild Zeitung, have a history of political campaigning and taking on board political agendas (Bild was one of the few European papers to openly endorse George W. Bush during the last elections).

The idea of Springer dominating the national media scene with a tabloid-cum-television combo had already irked Teuton regulators and was one of the main, if unofficial, reasons why Springer's ProSiebenSat1 takeover didn't go through.

The question is whether Polish regulators will be more open to the idea of Springer presenting not just an economic but also potentially political force within their country.

Politically, relations between Germany and Poland have frayed in recent months. Amongst the many things the two countries have been squabbling about are a gas pipeline Germany is building with Russia under the Baltic Sea as well as a 16-year-old treaty confirming the post-WWII borders between the two countries.

Poland's nationalist government seems uncomfortable with the idea of Springer -- or any other foreign investor -- buying into Polsat.

Polsat had long been looking for a strategic investor and at one stage had appeared to be in final talks with News Corp.

But News Corp. invested in Polish Catholic net TV Puls, which is run by a Warsaw brotherhood of Franciscan monks.

Nevertheless, if the marriage between Springer and Polsat is given the thumbs up by Polish regulators, it's likely to be an interesting one.

Polsat founder Zygmunt Solorz-Zak has recently been making headlines with the revelation that he worked for the Polish secret police under communism.

Given Springer's staunch anti-communist stand during the Cold War (the Springer headquarters in Berlin were built right next to the wall, so that people in East Berlin could read the latest headlines flashing up on large billboards), its Polsat deal is actually a case of sleeping with a former enemy.


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New cheap flights to Poland

POLISH low-cost airline Centralwings has launched a three-times-a-week service between Stansted and Poland's capital Warsaw.

Centralwings chief executive Maciej Kwiatkowski said: "Stansted is an exceptionally attractive base for low-cost carriers and we're particularly excited to be operating the only current direct air link to Warsaw.

"We're already seeing huge demand from passengers intending to use the route for both business and leisure purposes. The overall expansion in our flight network is giving our passengers far greater convenience and choice in terms of both destinations served and chances to save money on the cost of tickets.We've operated highly successful routes from Gatwick since February 2005 which now serves Warsaw, Wroclaw, and Krakow."


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Cameroonian activist charged with intentionally spreading HIV in Poland

Polish Police is looking for women who have had sexual contact with the Cameroonian refugee, poet and journalist Simon Moleke, who has been charged and arrested for intentionally infecting women with the HIV virus.

Moleke is known in Poland for his poetry and involvement in leftist activism. It is feared that he has purposefully infected at least several Polish women. The case has surfaced only recently, but as records on the internet forum of the Green Party website show, the intentional spreading of HIV by Moleke might have been known to the leftist activist circles as early as over half a year ago.

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Poland: the year ahead

Will Poland continue to be ruled by a shaky coalition of the conservatives with two fringe parties in 2007? Will former president Aleksander Kwasniewski return to politics? These are some of the questions posed by analysts at the start of the year.

2006 was a year of many tensions and upheavals on Poland’s political scene. While there are many question marks relating to the development of the political situation this year, one thing is certain: 2007 is the first year in seven years with no scheduled election. Is this likely to result in a greater degree of political stability?

Jacek Kucharczyk of the Institute of Public Affairs is rather skeptical.

‘We have a coalition which has an inherent tendency towards political conflict or scandal. In this sense I’m not sure if the fact that the government does not face the election test will have a stabilizing influence on Polish politics. I wish it would be so because the government has promised some serious reforms in such fields as taxes and public finances and of course it would be more desirable if the fact that the prospect of election being more distant now than would be used by the government to conduct some serious reforms.’

Most analysts of the Polish scene predict that the current coalition of the conservative Law and Justice party with the leftist Self-Defense and the rightist League of Polish Families will remain in power throughout 2007.

Marcin Sobczyk of Interfax Central Europe.

‘I believe that the conservative camp will stay in power and will have a huge influence on Polish politics and economy until the end of the presidential term of Lech Kaczyński. His twin brother, current prime minister will continue to have huge influence on Polish politics until the end of 2010 through his brother president. Opinion polls show that Poland is quite stable now at this point in giving its support for various political parties which means that early elections to parliament would not bring a radical change.’

In the area of foreign policy, Poland has been in the news over the past few weeks because of its refusal to support a European Union-Russia deal unless Moscow ended a ban on Polish meat imports and committed itself to an international energy trade pact. Warsaw’s veto alerted the EU to the lack of a clear strategy towards Russia. According to Jacek Kucharczyk, during the German presidency in the bloc Poland should engage in a constructive dialogue about the EU agenda.

‘Poland should come up with a number of initiatives on a number of issues and should engage its European partners as a more constructive member who can do much more than veto what the EU is doing but can contribute in a positive way to solving such issues as the future of the European Constitution and the future of the EU enlargement.’

In their forecasts for 2007, some Polish commentators have predicted a political comeback by former president Aleksander Kwaśniewski. In an interview with the Polityka weekly, he said: I’ve returned to public life but not to current politics.’
Source: By Michal Kubicki, polskieradio.pl

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Hilton to Open Warsaw, Poland�s Biggest Conference Hotel in March 2007

When the 29-story Hilton Warsaw Hotel and Convention Centre opens in Poland in March 2007, it will reveal an impressive new hotel, cutting edge in technology and precision built for meetings and conventions.

Located in a new business precinct just a ten-minute walk from the commercial heart of Warsaw, and a five-minute drive from the UNESCO-listed Old Town, the Hilton Warsaw Hotel and Convention Centre will house the largest and most modern conference facilities in the city. The 3000 square meters of flexible event space is double the size of any hotel meeting space now available.

President of Hilton Europe & Africa, Mr. Wolfgang M. Neumann, said, �Warsaw is known for its dramatic history, but more than ever it is emerging as the EU�s newest and best value meeting and convention destination. Located within easy reach of the major European source markets of London, Paris and Frankfurt, the city offers an unusual backdrop: modern skyscrapers coexist with communist constructions while the historic old town is home to a vibrant restaurant and bar scene. All this is supported by excellent service standards."

General Manager of the hotel, Mr. Bert Fol, added, �From the moment you walk into the hotel with its light-flooded 19-meter high lobby, to the spacious meetings and guest rooms, this is a hotel that is opening up the destination. It is an inspiring product in the hub of an inspiring city. When it opens in March, it will be a premier meetings facility by any world standard.�

Central to the hotel�s meetings offerings is the Warsaw Hall, a 1406 square meter pillar-less ballroom featuring five-meter high ceilings, a panel of floor-to-ceiling windows along one wall (with blinds allowing total blackout), and the most sophisticated technology in the capital including Guest-Tec-provided wired and wireless internet allowing 1000 users to log on simultaneously.

The ballroom is positioned for large-scale product launches and sales conventions and has a capacity for 1850 attendees theatre style with an adjacent 520 square meter exhibition hall for display booths and breakout meetings.

Furthermore, the ballroom can be configured into five separate soundproof spaces for smaller meetings, allowing for the transformation of a room for 750 into a themed banquet in a guaranteed turnaround time of 60 minutes.

Hilton Warsaw also features 14 meeting rooms, all with natural daylight, electronic signage, broadband access for email and streamed data and projector. A business center located over two floors will be serviced by experienced staff and outfitted with color laser printers, faxes, copiers and desktop PCs with internet access.

All 314 guestrooms come equipped with 27�� LCD screens and special software known as the Conference Manager, which provides real-time event information directly to the guestroom television.

The hotel is set to become an entertainment destination for local residents. It will house a 188-seat modern restaurant known as Meza, the stylish Pistachio bar and the city�s largest and most luxurious fitness center, the 3800 square meter Holmes Place, which is complimentary to all guests. Hilton Warsaw will also have a casino offering Vegas-style entertainment and underground parking facilities for 350 cars.

Hilton Hotels Corporation (NYSE:HLT) is the leading global hospitality company, with more than 2,800 hotels and 490,000 rooms in more than 80 countries, including 150,000 team members worldwide. The company owns, manages or franchises a hotel portfolio of some of the best known and highly regarded brands, including Hilton�, Conrad�, Coral by Hilton�, Doubletree�, Embassy Suites Hotels�, Hampton Inn�, Hampton Inn & Suites�, Hilton Garden Inn�, Hilton Grand Vacations�, Homewood Suites by Hilton�, Scandic and The Waldorf=Astoria Collection�


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