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Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Poland
Ministry Enhancing Poland’s International Reputation
Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for developing the country’s foreign policies and organising various international activities. Beata Stelmach, Undersecretary of State within the ministry, discusses current priorities and projects in this respect.
European Times: How is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs helping Polish companies cope with the crisis?
Beata Stelmach: For several years by now, Polish entrepreneurs have shown a strong interest in foreign expansion. This tendency is likely to remain strong in the long term.We believe that foreign policy needs to support their efforts to a greater degree. Making economic objectives a crucial aspect of our international bilateral relations and injecting a new economic dimension into the work of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has become a new focus of our day-to-day activity. We want our diplomatic staff working abroad to do their best to help businesses secure new opportunities in the emerging economies in particular – by putting diplomatic weight behind their commercial and investment projects on foreign markets.
European Times: Has Poland’s foreign trade been hurt by the global crisis?
Beata Stelmach: In fact, our foreign trade is increasing. In 2011, Poland’s total foreign trade reached €240 billion, around 80% of which was with the EU. Compared to 20 years ago, Poland has made amazing progress: our exports world-wide increased tenfold and the incoming FDIs exceeded € 140 billion, giving Poland an undisputed leading position in the region. This shows that Polish companies have become stronger and are better able to compete in the global marketplace. Poland left the global economic crisis unscathed – it was practically the only European country to steer clear of the recession, and it grew faster than any other economy in Europe. Since the beginning of the crisis, Poland’s GDP rose by almost 16% cumulatively. The European Commission expects Poland to show the strongest GDP growth in Europe this year.
European Times: How has hosting Euro 2012 affected the Polish economy?
Beata Stelmach: We have made vast improvements in infrastructure, from roads to airports and hotels. We want all travellers who come to Poland for the first time for Euro 2012 to want to come back to the country! We believe our tourism sector will greatly benefit from this event. Poland has about five minutes to be in the global spotlight and we want to show that we can handle it. These five minutes will have a major impact on the next years. The economists estimate that Euro 2012 will add an extra 2.1% GDP growth in the period 2008-2020.
European Times: What impact has Poland’s EU presidency had on the country?
Beata Stelmach: Poland’s EU Presidency was extremely successful and brought many visitors and potential investors to our country, for example to Sopot which became the second capital of the EU after we took over the Presidency. We also organised many cultural events abroad during the EU presidency, as well as private-sector and NGO initiatives. We took over the Presidency in challenging times. Firstly, we have been all facing financial problems of the euro zone for some time. Secondly, freedom movements have unexpectedly erupted in North Africa which has serious economic and social consequences for the EU countries. These factors were taken into account by the Polish government when it accepted the priorities of our EU Presidency and decided to concentrate on three key areas: European integration as a source of growth; a secure Europe; and a Europe benefiting from openness. Presidency was widely supported by private companies, giving a good example of partnership for strengthening Poland’s image. The review of Poland’s performance was very positive; there were no failures and we are very satisfied with what was accomplished.
European Times: What is your personal message to potential visitors and investors?
Beata Stelmach: Welcome to Poland!