Poland: ban on genetically modified crops

Poland's government will defend its ban on genetically modified foods against any European Union demands to allow the planting of biotech crops, announced Environment Minister Jan Szyszko. „Poland is to be free of food produced on the basis of genetically modified organisms,” Szyszko said at a news conference, adding that a bill the government sent to parliament this week will maintain the current ban.

„We believe this is in accordance with the European Union's directives,” Szyszko said. „Of course, there are other opinions and we will now discuss this with the European Commission.” About 95% of Poles disagree with the approbation of the new crops, Szyszko said, citing opinion polls. Some EU members, including Austria, refuse to allow the crops to be planted, ignoring approvals for several strains by EU regulators since a ban expired in 2004 and a World Trade Organization ruling last year.

Polish food processing industry strongly criticizes the government’s decision, arguing that the ban on genetically modified foods is a serious mistake, for which Poland will pay for in the future.


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POLAND: Investors in Unibrew quarry slam takeover

Minority shareholders in Polish brewer Browar Lomza have reportedly criticised an agreement to sell the company to Danish brewer Royal Unibrew.

Investors in the Polish brewer believe the agreement with Royal Unibrew does not value Browar Łomża highly enough, according to reports in Poland today (5 March).

Last month, Royal Unibrew signed a deal to buy Browar Lomza for around DKK240m (US$42.2m). The minority investors say Browar Lomza is worth PLN130-150m (US$44-50m).

"In such conditions, completing the transaction would be detrimental to the company and its shareholders," Konrad Smok, from Poland's Individual Investors Association (SII), told local news agency PNB.

Officials at Royal Unibrew could not be reached for comment as just-drinks went to press.

Browar Lomza, which is based in the north-east of Poland, has an annual capacity of 750,000 hectolitres of beer and recorded sales of around 630,000 hectolitres last year.


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Poland: pear prices remain high but lower than a year ago

Warsaw - In the firsts days of March, pear prices remain high but lower than at the same time in 2006. Pears were bought for 0,54-0,60 €/kg depending on variety. According to the forecasts, prices should achieve the level of previous year by the end of the current season. Poland isn’t an important pear producer in the EU (pear production doesn’t exceed 10% of total apple production), but is still the largest among the new member countries. The 2006 crop amounted to around 60 thousand MT.

Conference' remains the main Polish pear variety.

The main varieties grown in Poland are ‘Conference’, ‘Alexander Lucas’ and ‘Clapp’s Favourite’, but growers are interested in new varieties, especially selections coming from Czech Republic (‘Dicolor’, ‘Erika’, ‘Amfora’. ‘Dicolor’), Sweden (‘Carola’) and Ukraine (‘Nayabrskaya’ – its fruits can be stored until the end of May in conventional storage). Modern orchards with 1500-2000 trees per hectare and quince used as rootstock can achieve a crop of 30 MT per hectare.


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Poland's jobless rate inches down to 15 percent in February

Poland's jobless rate dipped to 15 percent in February from 15.1 percent a month earlier, Poland's labor minister said Tuesday in releasing preliminary figures.

The 15 percent unemployment rate marks a significant drop from 18 percent in February 2006, giving a boost to the conservative government of Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

Official statistics are expected in late March. However, those data seldom diverge by more than one-tenth of a percentage point from the preliminary Labor Ministry figures.

Poland's unemployment rate has gradually declined since reaching a post-communist peak of 20.7 percent in February 2003. However, it still remains the highest in the expanded 27-nation EU.

The fall in unemployment comes amid strong economic growth of nearly 6 percent in this ex-communist country that joined the EU in 2004. But some government critics argue that the fall in the jobless rate results in large part from the fact that hundreds of thousands of Poles have left the country since then to work in Western Europe.


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Constructive dialogue between Poland’s head of state and FIFA President

During a joint meeting with a delegation from FIFA and UEFA headed by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter in Warsaw (Poland) yesterday, the President of Poland, Lech Kaczyński, backed the re-establishment of normality and publicly announced his support for the roadmap drawn up by FIFA to help Polish football resolve the crisis that has been destabilising it for several months.

At the meeting, also attended by UEFA Executive Committee member and Football Federation of Ukraine President Grigoriy Surkis and FIFA presidential delegate for special affairs Jérôme Champagne, the President of Poland confirmed that the decisions taken by the Polish Minister of Sports on 19 January would be annulled. Consequently, the post of commissioner appointed to head the Polish Football Association (PZPN) was abolished and the executive committee and President of the PZPN, Michal Listkiewicz, were reinstated with full statutory powers.
Moreover, a decision was taken to set up an independent electoral committee comprising representatives of the President and Prime Minister of Poland as well as FIFA and UEFA. This committee, headed by Professor Michal Kleiber, the Polish President’s adviser for social affairs, will guide the PZPN’s activities until the next elections are held.

“I have to thank Polish President Lech Kaczyński for his support and perception of the situation,” commented the FIFA President. “The Polish Football Association has now had its rights restored and enjoys the trust of the international football family.”

The FIFA President also found time to talk to current Poland national team coach Leo Beenhakker during the course of his trip.

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Procter & Gamble cutting jobs, reducing operations at plant in Ireland

Procter & Gamble Co. said Tuesday it is cutting more than half of the work force at its cosmetics plant in Ireland and is shifting some of its operations to Poland over the next two years.

The plant in Nenagh, County Tipperary, will continue operating with some 220 employees, down from about 500 now, company spokesman Doug Shelton said.

He was responding to questions about the company's plans after employees at the Irish plant said they were told on Tuesday not to go to work, pending an announcement from company executives.

"That plant remains important to P&G business," Shelton said in Cincinnati, home of the consumer products company. "It will continue manufacturing of cosmetics."

He said the company is moving the plant's skin-care production to Poland for strategic reasons including its proximity to the important emerging markets in eastern Europe.

He said some employees will have the opportunity to transfer, while others will be offered separation packages. The reduction will be phased over a two-year period, Shelton said.

The Irish government, which in 1999 provided a $34 million (€26 million) grant package to help P&G's Nenagh plant expand, had said earlier it feared that the operation was facing closure.

Workers at the Nenagh plant have feared for their jobs since January, when P&G executives said they were considering closing one of their European manufacturing facilities. Those anxieties increased in mid-February after reports that the company was planning to open a new cosmetics factory in Aleksandrow Lodzki, Poland, in 2008.

The Nenagh plant, opened in 1985, is the biggest employer in the town. It makes products for the Max Factor and Cover Girl makeup ranges, Oil of Olay skin products, and perfumes for the Hugo Boss and Laura Biagiotti brands. Oil of Olay production will move to Poland, P&G said.

Ireland has been Europe's biggest economic beneficiary of globalization over the past decade. Hundreds of high-tech multinationals, particularly in the computer and pharmaceutical industries, have chosen Ireland as a low-tax, low-wage, high-skill base for the European Union. Ireland's unemployment rate of 4.3 percent is among the lowest in Europe.

But that appeal has been fading since the EU's expansion into the formerly communist east, where workers' skills are improving and wages are much lower. While Ireland's corporate tax rate of 12.5 percent remains one of the lowest in Europe, wages and the cost of living have shot up rapidly, making it less attractive for foreign investors.

A string of foreign multinationals have closed shop or cut employee numbers in Ireland. Last month, drug maker Pfizer Inc. said it planned to close two plants in Cork, southwest Ireland, and lay off 545 workers.


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Poland: Putting Politics and Security before Economics


Polish natural gas monopoly PGNiG has announced that it is purchasing ExxonMobil Corp.'s stake in three exploration licenses off the Norwegian coast. The move, along with other plans currently being negotiated, clearly indicates that the Kaczynski government is moving to cut Poland's dependence on Russian natural gas supplies. As relations between the countries continue to deteriorate, the move also shows that the Poles -- like the Russians -- are willing to make deals based not on economic costs, but on politics and security.


Poland's state-owned natural gas monopoly PGNiG announced March 1 it is purchasing ExxonMobil Corp.'s 15 percent stake in three exploration licenses off Norway's coast. As part of the agreement, Poland has a right to a percentage of the natural gas produced in the fields. This deal, along with a few others that are currently in the works -- including a planned liquefied natural gas terminal in Gdansk and a planned pipeline from Norway to Poland -- is a clear sign that the Kaczynski government is moving to cut Poland's dependence on Russian natural gas supplies. Moreover, given the government's vehement feelings toward all things Russian, the move shows that the Poles are willing to put politics and security ahead of economics.

Poland is purchasing ExxonMobil's stakes in the Skarv and Snadd fields on Norway's continental shelf, entering into a consortium with BP, Royal Dutch/Shell, Norway's Statoil and Norsk Hydro. It is PGNiG's first international acquisition in the upstream sector, and it will be good experience for the firm. The fields, which already are being developed, are estimated to hold 36 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas -- and Poland has opted to secure a percentage of those supplies for itself.

Poland imports approximately half of its 13 bcm annual consumption of natural gas from Russia, with the rest coming from domestic production. The Russo-Polish relationship, however, has been deteriorating since the passionately anti-Russian Kaczynski twins took office as president and prime minister in 2005 and 2006. Once in office, the twins led a witch hunt to root out any communists and their sympathizers, replaced much of the Cabinet (many times), scrapped the Soviet-era intelligence community and began negotiations with the United States over a missile defense base in Poland.

During this time, the relationship between Poland and Russia has deteriorated -- and the tit-for-tat list of actions has grown. Russia, for example, has erected trade barriers against Polish agricultural products, while Poland has sabotaged the European Union's relationship with Russia by vetoing any potential agreements between the two.

In the energy sector, Russia's Gazprom suspended cooperation with PGNiG on the Yamal-Europe pipeline because Poland rebuffed Gazprom's request for lower transit fees. Russia also has plans for large and expensive projects that would strategically send their supplies to friendlier neighbors. One such project is a large natural gas pipeline, Nord Stream, through the Baltic Sea to Germany, completely bypassing Poland -- which vehemently opposes the line. Costs for this project, however, are estimated at $5 billion (the Russians say $3 billion) and it remains undecided who will front this money. So far, Russia has been able to maintain the upper hand in the feud because it controls such a large portion of Poland's energy supplies. That, however, is precisely the situation the Kaczynskis are taking steps to alter.

Poland also is in talks with the Norwegian government to build a pipeline from natural gas fields off the Norwegian coast to Poland via Denmark. On one hand, there already is considerable infrastructure linking Norwegian fields to Denmark, so the lines would just need to be continued on to Poland. PGNiG, however, lacks experience in this type of technology and would have to rely on its Norwegian counterparts for the construction through the Baltic Sea to Poland. At the very least, the negotiations show that Poland is willing to shell out the money for projects abroad.

Other projects on the table include a deal with Gaz de France to help construct a liquefied natural gas terminal in Gdansk, Poland. The project would cost a whopping $4 billion to $5 billion -- but once completed would allow Poland to secure supplies from almost any foreign (non-Russian) supplier in the world.

Poland historically has allowed the high cost of taking on energy projects to outweigh its feelings about the Russians -- and perhaps for this reason, the last three governments avoided severing ties with Russian suppliers. Indeed, it would be much less expensive to continue importing natural gas from Russia than to assume the financial burden of these projects. The Kaczynskis, however, are taking a page from the Russian manual -- though they would never admit it -- in valuing political strategy and security far above economic practicality.

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Opera Mini accelerates the growth of the mobile Internet in Poland

Opera Software today announced that PTC/era, (Polska Telefonia Cyfrowa, Era and Heyah networks) the leading operator in Poland, is bringing mobile Web browsing to most of its users with the launch of the “blueconnect in your mobile” service. PTC/era will pre-install Opera Mini, the fast and easy-to-use mobile Web browser from Opera Software, on 13 high volume mobile phones. They will also make Opera Mini available as a free over-the-air download to nearly 200 other phone models. As a result, the significant part of mobile phone portfolio of PTC/Era is covered and supported by Opera Mini.

Opera Mini enables Era’s customers to browse all their favorite Web sites, including web mail, news and social sites from the mobile screen. In addition to the full Internet, users will be able to take advantage of their favorite mobile content and transaction services with Era Omnix.

“The Polish market is an extremely exciting market for us. For years, Opera has had a significant market share with its PC browser in Poland. Recently we opened our new development center in Wroclaw. We are looking forward to further grow our market share in Poland and its neighboring countries.” said Kai Leppäenen, VP Mobile, Opera Software.


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Remittances sent home by migrant workers boosts Poland's economy

Despite a spate of scandals and ministerial departures, an economic boom helped by cash sent home by Poles working abroad has saved Poland's nationalist government.

Since the United Kingdom, Sweden and Ireland fully opened their labor markets to Polish workers in 2004, the financial inflows to the country have grown to 6.4 billion euros per year.

Government problems at home

Growing prosperity has rescued the accident-prone government, dominated by the twin brothers who hold the positions of President and Prime Minister.

Since entering office in 2005, the president Lech Kaczynski and his brother Jaroslaw have gone through five finance ministers, two foreign ministers, two treasury ministers, one prime minister, a defense minister and an interior minister.

Following a row with the twins, deputy Prime Minister Andrzej Lepper, resigned but was later reinstated.

The government also survived the exposure of taped conversations showing how a senior official offered an MP inducement to switch political affiliation.

The latest high-profile resignation was that of Radek Sikorski, the outspoken defense minister, who quit in February after rumors of a clash over the behavior of Antoni Macierewicz, chief of Poland's military secret service and a friend of the twins.

But the new ructions seem to have strengthened the twins' grip on power, which has been buoyed by economic growth.

Money from workers abroad
Remittances from abroad , mostly by taking advantage of gree movement of labor within the European Union, are now worth almost 2.5% of the gross domestic product of 250 billion euros.

Since the United Kingdom opened its labor market to Poles almost three years ago, at least a quarter of a million Poles have settled in Britain.

Marcin Korolec, under-secretary at Poland's ministry of economics, said: "The statistics show that the transfer from Polish people working abroad is something like 6 billion euros a year."

"Obviously this is a huge amount of capital, a huge amount of flow. It has an impact on internal consumption and internal growth."

Spurred by this financial stimulus and by the benefits of EU membership, the Polish economy has grown by an impressive rate of 5%. This was further helped by a boom in construction, which saw a 12% increase in 2006.

According to an official economic report published in February, the growth for last year "was driven mainly by a rise in total consumption" with medium and larger firms reporting increases in retail sales of 11.9 percent - as opposed to 1.5 percent in 2005.

Key elements identified as prompting this include an improvement in the labor market, an increase in wages, inflow of EU agricultural subsidies and "transfers of remittance."

It is unclear what proportion of the cash flowing into Poland originates in the UK. It is likely to be substantial, however, because official statistics last year showed that of 427,000 migrant workers from new EU countries that registered for work in Britain, 62% were from Poland.

Unofficial estimates have suggested that many more, perhaps as many as 600,000 or even up to one million, have entered the UK, but it is uncertain how many subsequently left and how many currently remain.

During elections in 2005, Jaroslaw Kaczynski promised not to put himself forward for the premiership if his brother became president. That pledge was broken when the government's first Prime Minister, Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, resigned.

But the government has continued unabashed and claimed the credit for rising prosperity.

Eugeniusz Smolar, president of Poland's Centre for International Relations, said that economic growth had been crucial for the Kaczynski twins. Despite early fears that the government would penalize foreign investors it is "not doing anything that would prevent Poland's economic growth," he said.


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Poland told to stop work in endangered habitat

BRUSSELS, Belgium — The European Union said Wednesday it has given Poland a week to stop work on a highway running through a protected habitat in a test case of how new EU member states deal with environmental issues.

``We don't accept irreversible damage,'' said EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas. If the Polish government does not back down in a week, Dimas said he will seek an injunction from the EU's highest court to suspend the highway project.

Polish authorities have approved plans to construct a 10-mile section of the Via Baltica highway linking the country to Finland through a protected peat bog where rare eagles, wolves and lynx roam.

Dimas called the Rospuda River valley one of the best maintained primeval forests of central Europe. He said that since clearance work in the wetlands was about to start on the highway project he had no option but to threaten to take the member state to court and get a suspension of the works.

The newer EU member states are fighting similar battles as they're forced to balance environmental preservation with a desire for an economic boost. Poland joined the EU in 2004 and Bulgaria and Romania, the newest members, joined in January.

``They should not start work. It is very simple. They should not cut down the trees. How will we get them back?'' Dimas asked. The valley is protected by the European Union's habitat law NATURA 2000.

In Warsaw, Polish Transport Minister Jerzy Polaczek said Poland is prepared to defend its stance at the EU court.

``We are ready for that because we are presenting a matter-of-fact, objective and I think a very detailed argument of our reasons.''

He said the Polish government remained open to further talks with Dimas and other EU officials over the disputed highway.

Under EU rules, Dimas sent a second warning Wednesday, and barring a positive answer from Warsaw within a week, the court procedure will start.

Environmental groups backed Dimas' approach.

``We recognize the need for improved infrastructure in Poland, but any development must follow the EU legal framework,'' said Marta Wisniewska of WWF Poland.

Source:By Raf Caster Associated Press,


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Poland, Lithuania Agree On New Ignalina Nuclear Facility

The prime ministers of Poland and Lithuania Friday signed a joint statement of political intent to co-operate on building a new nuclear power facility at Lithuania's Ignalina nuclear power facility, Polish Radio reported.

Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski and visiting Lithuanian Premier Gediminas Kirkilas termed the move in Warsaw an "important step" in the construction of a new reactor with the participation of European Union members Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

The three latter Baltic states agreed to co-operate on the expansion of Ignalina last year.

As part of the project, Poland has agreed to hook-up its electrical power grid with that of Lithuania, thus allowing greater energy co-operation between EU states.

Lithuania has promised to close down Soviet-built reactors at the Ignalina facility by the end of this decade while initial plans call for the first new nuclear power facility to be constructed within the next decade.

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