Local companies, products and services can contribute to building a prestige
of West Pomerania. Challenges faced by Polish companies on EU markets,
as well as the support for businesses by the European Commission were
the main topics of the meeting with Ms. Elżbieta Bieńkowska, EU Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs.
In recent years, in West Pomerania, unemployment has been falling faster
than in the rest of the country. The region had one of the highest GDP growth rates.
It would not be possible if it was not for the effort made by entrepreneurs
in the region. Further growth can proceed by, for instance, reaching new western markets.
The Local government and business did a great job by developing cooperation
and the growth promoting climate. Today, it is necessary to provide further support for accessing western markets. Although we are a part of the EU, it is not always easy. Our meeting may suggest solutions for overcoming barriers. There are many companies which proved that it is possible to grow and at the same time take of their employees, said Olgierd Geblewicz, the Marshal of West Pomerania, while welcoming participants.
Ms. Elżbieta Bieńkowska, the EU Commissioner, confirmed that changes
in West Pomerania and in the regional economy were the direct effect of many road projects. She admitted that problems of the EU internal market, one of the pillars
of the European integration, became secondary to issues such as refugees, upcoming elections in several countries, and the future EU budget period,
as well as the EU cohesion policy.
I talked to entrepreneurs and I am familiar with barriers they face. After thirteen years in the EU, we managed to develop a group of resilient companies that compete on western markets based on quality rather than price. The same applies to Czechs and Slovaks. The main issue is illegal protectionism obstructing your operation
on European markets. Transport companies provide a good example of that. If there was no European Commission, we would not have any institution to resort to. Explanatory procedure has been instigated against Germany and France,
and soon also Austria. We have been forcing member states to change, but those changes take too long, said Bieńkowska. She also told participants about recent measures taken to strengthen the internal market as proposed by the European Commission. Those include for example the services e-card that can be obtained
by businesses in the countries of origin. Certificates, permits, and approvals
in the e-card will be made available by the home country administration to countries were the company intends to operate. The introduced of the system, however,
is blocked by Germany and France.
Yet another example of excessive protectionism includes regulations on exercising certain professions. The objective of the EU is to widen the economic freedom,
for instance the free movement of goods. It is estimated that it has been liberalised at the level of 70-80%. In the case of the freedom of services, it is merely 30%,
and all this has happened while having the service directive which prohibits protectionist measures.
I need to know what is going on. If someone does not want to let you in and prevents from doing business abroad, please write to the European Commission.
Such measures are illegal and we need to be notified so we have arguments
to support you, said Bieńkowska.
The Commissioner also explained that the future cohesion policy may have
a tremendous importance for Polish companies, since this will translate into funding available for particular countries after 2020. In her opinion, the negotiation
on the current budget showed how difficult it was to reach a compromise,
and the position Poland had was not good considering the utilisation of EU funds. Today, they say increasingly often that this policy should change, since there
is no solidarity regarding distribution of refugees.
Representatives of businesses from West Pomerania confirmed that while doing their business in Western Europe they encounter administrative and legal barriers. Laura Hołowacz from CSL stated that entrepreneurs continue learning how to operate there, and transport suffers because of protectionism like no other sector. Wojciech Ciuruś, Ciroko, told about difficult relations with trade unions in Norway, a country which is a part of the single market.
Today we compete mainly regarding quality. Our productivity improved significantly which can be seen if we compare ourselves with people from Ukraine. In fact it is difficult for us to overcome administrative barriers. In Norway, we obtained certificates needed to participate in public procurement, but after several years those certificates were taken away. They claimed we failed to meet experience criteria. We need to wait for an administrative decision for seven months.
And the certificate is probably no longer required but all entities demand it from us. We won one of tenders but I must admit that qualifications, which account for 40% of the total points, are assessed selectively, said Wojciech Ciuruś.
High quality enables Calbud to compete in Europe. In Germany we face legal issues, blockage and unwillingness. But we compete based on quality. For example, we are building a tunnel. A very complex project from the engineering and technological point of view, but Germans were not very willing to participate in that tender, said Maciej Pirczewski, Calbud.
Elżbieta Bieńkowska said that thanks to the armies of lawyers that they have, western corporations have easier access to Poland than we to Europe. Economic integration does not really work as it should. In her opinion, today’s main challenges include the technological revolution and robotics. We should start thinking today about those people who may not have jobs in 10-20 years, since they will be replaced by robots.
A major success was that local administration learned how to work together with business. Olgierd Geblewicz said that the cooperation is still the key
to strengthen the region. Still several years ago, local companies were not very willing to resort to the support of the administration, since they considered that it focuses on supporting foreign investors only. Geblewicz reminded everyone
that the Investors and Exporters’ Assistane Centre, answerable to the Marshal, helps developing export plans and promotion at exhibitions and fairs, e.g. Hannover Messe. Today, when the Euro Zone is out of recession, it is the best time to start overcoming economic barriers. We should emphasise the need for a single market. We want to encourage business to joint promotion of companies and brands, said Geblewicz, and declared that he would always lobby for companies based
in West Pomerania.
Participants emphasised the growing role of awareness about the environment
and the need to develop employees among businesses. Same example of that is
the support of social and cultural events by CSL in the company’s head office,
the so called Old Slaughterhouse (using EU funding from ROP 2007-2013), art promotion by Calbud, and cooperation between Ciroko and micro- and small businesses in the business self-government. Businessmen present said that activity like that gives them a lot of personal satisfaction, enable to develop their passions, but also build trust and improve social capital. The meeting with Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska was organised by the Marshal
of the Westpomeranian Region and the Rota Association.