Poland ready to provide majority of Euro 2012 venues

Poland is prepared to provide six of the eight venues needed for Euro 2012 if co-host Ukraine is not ready in time, Polish sports officials told local media on Saturday.

Earlier this week UEFA president Michel Platini gave Ukraine three months to prove its preparations for hosting the event were on track.

"We are hoping Euro 2012 will be co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine as planned, but the risk factor must be assessed and a contingency reserve prepared," Polish Sports Minister Miroslaw Drzewiecki told news channel TVN24 on Saturday.

"Our reserve is the fact that we are building not four but six stadiums, so we can sleep peacefully no matter what happens."

Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza said a contingency plan to hold the tournament at six Polish venues instead of the originally planned four was being considered by tournament organisers, citing unidentified UEFA sources.

Television reports also showed Polish Football Association president Michal Listkiewicz adding that alternative venues were being given consideration by what he termed "the UEFA family".

"This is a big group of UEFA activists, politicians and other VIPs for whom Euro is also a round of business meetings and banquets, and only Polish cities are capable of providing the necessary attractions," Listkiewicz said.

Earlier this year and again last week, both countries were warned they might lose the right to co-host the tournament because of delays in building and upgrading much-needed infrastructure including stadiums and transport networks.

Last Wednesday, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk gave the visiting Platini his personal assurances that his country would have everything ready on schedule by 2011.
Eight venues are due to stage the matches. Warsaw, Poznan, Wroclaw and Gdansk in Poland and Kiev, Donetsk, Lviv and Dnipropetrovsk in Ukraine.

The two reserve stadiums Poland's Drzewiecki referred to were in Chorzow and Krakow -- both in the south of the country.



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Poland plans contingency for 2012

Poland say they will step in and provide six of the eight venues for Euro 2012 if co-hosts Ukraine are not ready to help stage the tournament.

Ukraine have been given until September by Uefa president Michel Platini to prove they are capable of co-hosting Europe's showpiece football event.

Uefa have told Ukraine to speed up work on building stadiums and improve roads and transport infrastructure.

But Poland say they have a plan in place, if Ukraine continue to struggle.

"We are hoping Euro 2012 will be co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine as planned, but the risk factor must be assessed and a contingency reserve prepared," Polish sports minister Miroslaw Drzewiecki told Polish news channel TVN24 on Saturday.

Our reserve is the fact that we are building not four but six stadiums

Polish sports minister - Miroslaw Drzewiecki
"Our reserve is the fact that we are building not four but six stadiums, so we can sleep peacefully no matter what happens."

Poland and Ukraine, who were awarded the competition in April last year, have admitted that preparations had fallen behind because of political instability in both countries.

Work has not started on the new stadium in the Polish capital Warsaw, while contractors have not yet been appointed for the major refurbishment of the Olympic Stadium in Kiev.

Eight venues are due to stage the matches - Warsaw, Poznan, Wroclaw and Gdansk in Poland and Kiev, Donetsk, Lviv and Dnipropetrovsk in Ukraine.

The two reserve stadiums in Poland are in Chorzow and Krakow, both in the south of the country.

Uefa will make its next announcement on the subject at a meeting on 23 September.
Source: news.bbc.co.uk

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Poland's euro-scepticism threatens to throw a spanner in EU works

Marta Kotlarz, an ambitious young law graduate who returned to Poland this year to launch her career after working in England, was enjoying the sunshine in the smart Baltic seaside town of Sopot among crowds of well-dressed holidaymakers.

The town's cafes and fashionable sushi restaurants were crowded with Poland's new middle class. With the economy growing at five or six per cent per cent annually they can afford to dine out in style.

The holiday crowd are the people who have done well out of membership of the EU and there is huge support for Europe at Sopot's tables.

Yet as they discussed their Euro-sceptic president's announcement this week that after the Lisbon Treaty's rejection by Irish voters there was 'no point' him signing it, there were also real doubts about Poland's future relationship with Europe.
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"We like the free market," Miss Kotlarz said as she sipped a cappuccino. "But we don't know where the EU is going and whether it will change into a super state."

President Kaczynski's announcement caused gossip in Sopot and uproar in Warsaw, where the pro-EU political establishment had hoped that under a new prime minister the doubts and arguments about Europe could now be forgotten.

For the past few years they have been embarrassed about Poland being portrayed as part of the difficult squad. The politicians openly questioned further integration and vocal minorities have taken every chance to denounce Europe. The establishment had hoped that all that was in the past.

But with one brief comment, President Kaczynski has reignited a debate among ordinary Poles who are grateful for the prosperity the EU has brought and feel glad to be part of the family of European nations again after decades cut off behind the Iron Curtain, but also feel uneasy about what the political experiment they have signed up for will ultimately do to their hard-fought and treasured independence.

Miss Kotlarz is typical of a generation that is hungry for a better life. She remembers the shortages and restrictions from her childhood in the workers' paradise, and she knows that joining the EU has brought Poles like her opportunities that her parents only dreamt of.

She worked in an aquarium in Cheshire to improve her English, and now looks forward to a bright future at home. Yet she feels unhappy with the way Poland's establishment sees Europe.

"The media view is that everybody is pro-EU and if you are not, you are stupid," she said. "I spoke to a friend of mine who is working in Ireland and she said it was exactly the same there. And yet the Irish rejected the treaty."

She believes that Poles would probably have voted for the treaty, just, if they were given the chance in a referendum. They certainly would vote to stay inside the EU. Since Poland joined in 2004 surveys have consistently found that 70 - 80 per cent of the nation supports membership although there is a vocal minority of opponents, including farmers, nationalists, and Roman Catholics who fear gay marriage and abortion on demand will be forced on them.

There is also President Kaczynski, whose twin brother was prime minister until last year. Together their Law and Justice party caused Brussels a series of headaches.

They argued that the Lisbon treaty would have eroded Poland's influence within the EU at the expense of larger powers and they were able to negotiate changes to the treaty.

Supporters of the new prime minister Donald Tusk had hoped that with the President's twin brother voted out of power last year the pair would no longer be able to cause them embarrassment by trying to put a brake on moves for further integration.

Instead Poland's pro-EU politicians now face months of fresh argument and debate about Poland's role in Europe.

Euro-sceptics are delighted.

"The Polish people like the EU but they don't want to be bullied from abroad because they have had a lot of that in the past," said MEP Maciej Giertych (CRRCT), a standard bearer for the Eurosceptic cause. "The Polish people didn't like the Lisbon Treaty. There is no appetite for a federal superstate here."

Like the voters in Ireland's referendum, ordinary Poles admitted to being rather puzzled by the details of the Lisbon Treaty, and also uneasy about what it will mean for them.

"I don't know what is in it," admitted one contract worker in the industrial city of Gdansk, near Sopot. "It's not something I would discuss over a glass of beer."

The business world, looking forward to a spectacular, Irish-style transformation of Poland's economy, are watching events keenly. David Thomas, chairman of the Polish British Chamber of Commerce, said that although the treaty was big news again in political circles at the moment his Polish friends are preoccupied with a lack of workers. Huge numbers have moved to the building sites and factories of the West.

Farmers have a similar problem – there are plans to import labourers from Ukraine this autumn to harvest Poland's crops – and although they are better off than they have ever been but still grumble constantly about EU regulations.

Poles from many walks of life complain that the EU's rules - how many fish they can catch or ships they can build - remind them of the old days of communism.

"For a few years after the fall of communism there was a wonderful lack of red tape," said one British expatriate who is based in Warsaw. "But a lot of it has come back with the EU."

There are enough interest groups with grievances to keep complaints about the changes Europe has brought to Polish society constantly before Polish eyes.

Fishermen are one group that have fought a long battle with the European Commission over a cod fishing ban, blockading ports and claiming the EU is forcing them out of business.

Another stick to beat the EU with is the emotional issue of Germans seeking property that they or their forebears lost when they were forced out in 1945. Court cases are pending before German courts seeking the return of property or compensation, and many Poles believe the EU will eventually force them to pay although they argue that Stalin was to blame.

But the EU's biggest headache in Poland will continue to be President Kaczynski, especially while he seeks a higher profile for himself and his Law and Justice party as a series of local elections lead up to parliamentary elections in 2010.

One Western diplomat in Warsaw said that judging from past form the President will in the end probably sign the treaty, which has already been ratified by the Polish Parliament. After all he helped to draw it up, and as the diplomat pointed out the President is a moderate and astute politician.

He is also famously stubborn, however, and nobody doubts that his Euroscepticism is genuinely felt and supported by many of the voters he will want to win over. It may yet be Warsaw, not Dublin, where the coup de grace is applied to the Lisbon Treaty.
Source: By By Nick Meo, telegraph.co.uk

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