New Ambassador Daphne Bergsma:
“Poland was No.1 on my list” • The Orange Ball 2019: a roaring success • ING Economist: Poland not so sensitive to German recession
69 Winter 2019
We wish all the members and friends of the Netherlands-Polish Chamber of Commerce a very Merry Christmas and a Happy 2020 on behalf of:
Bulletin Winter 2019 4
Daphne Bergsma, the new Dutch Ambassador to Poland, speaks about the strong ties between Poland and the Netherlands
10 NEWS FROM OUR CHAMBER 14 ARTICLE
Orange Ball 2019 – an evening full of excellent entertainment, delicious food and charity
Daphne Bergsma the new Dutch Ambassador in Poland
Tomasz Dudek, Managing Director CEE at OTTO Work Force, explains why employing workers from the Asian market is a great step into the future
Eric van Vliet, Managing Director at Hitachi Capital Polska, sheds light on the leasing and electric car markets in Poland
24 NEWS FROM THE EMBASSY 26 INTERVIEW Rafał Benecki, Chief Economist at ING Bank Śląski, speaks about the economic situation in Poland
Adam Czerniak, Chief Economist at Polityka Insight, gives an insight into the likely impact of the recent general election on the Polish economy over the next few years
Orange Ball 2019 a tremendous success
31 NEW MEMBERS 32 COLUMN
33 ARTICLE FROM OUR PLATINUM SPONSOR Electromobility in Poland is gaining momentum
34 NPCC TEST DRIVE Range Rover Velar 35 COLUMN
Interview with Eric van Vliet of Hitachi Capital Polska
Remco van der Kroft
Director’s note Dear Reader, You are currently holding the fourth Bulletin of 2019, which means that we are already very close to the end of the year. Looking back at the year from an economic perspective, we can see that Poland is doing well, with expected GDP growth this year of 4.4%. The country is continuing the trend of catching up with Western Europe and, depending on which survey you read, Poland has already surpassed the purchasing power of some of the older EU-bloc members. An interesting read from that perspective (thank you to Ben van de Vrie for pointing us in that direction) is the recently published annual Global Competitiveness Report by the World Economic Forum, which placed Poland in 37th position. The report shows the sectors where Poland is outperforming other countries and also those sectors where something could still be improved. It is well worth downloading if you have some spare time during the Christmas holidays.
Bulletin is the quarterly magazine of the NetherlandsPolish Chamber of Commerce. It gives a voice to our members and informs about the activities the Chamber undertakes. The views expressed in the columns are theirs alone. The Editor-in-Chief is not responsible for the accuracy of the statements made by the columnists. Publisher: NPCC Managing Editor: Anna Zadrożna
Looking at the NPCC, I am very happy to say that we have now finally become a hub of NLinBusiness, a platform that bundles all available information and contacts for SMEs in the Netherlands together in one place. They are currently setting up a network with hubs in selected cities all over the world that offer good opportunities for Dutch entrepreneurs. We are very proud that we are one of the frontrunners in that network and have been selected to become part of it. This will open even more opportunities for companies from the Netherlands to find our chamber, and thus also to come into contact with our members in Poland. The signing of the agreement with NLinBusiness took place during our very well received Orange Ball, which took place in the Intercontinental Hotel. Over 300 guests enjoyed some excellent Indonesian and international cuisine, and they were kept entertained by both Jimmie Wilson and his band, and also the Emil Frey band. The evening was presented by Malgorzata Neumann and in total it helped to raise over 55,000 PLN for our chosen charity for the evening, the Gajusz Foundation from Łódź. A big thank you goes to the Orange Ball organising committee consisting of Eric van Vliet, Erik Drukker, Peter Stolker, Martien Brink and Timea Balajcza. And also, a big thumbs-up to our own office team of Anna Zadrożna and Milena Zychowicz who spent a lot of time and energy making sure the event was a big success. The week after that, we offered our matchmaking services to an incoming mission from the port of Rotterdam, whose participants also took part in a transport seminar which we organised together with the Netherlands Embassy in the new office premises of the CLIP Group. Thank you to both the Embassy and to CLIP for putting so much effort into this successful event.
Columnists: Huub Droogh Staf Beems Remco van der Kroft
I could go on and on about the activities that we organised recently but, as I mentioned at the start, you have the Bulletin in front of you so now you can read all about them, and more, in the coming pages. I wish you a great holiday period and quality time with your friends and family. On behalf of the NPCC team, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy 2020.
Photos: Elro van den Burg Anna Zadrożna Milena Zychowicz Katarzyna Cegłowska Netherlands Embassy in Poland
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Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org Elro van den Burg Managing Director of the Netherlands-Polish Chamber of Commerce
Activities of the Netherlands-Polish Chamber of Commerce 5 December 2019
Christmas Business Mixer
11 February 2020
Location: Runge College Wojska Polskiego 52, Poznań Time: 18.00-21.00
10 December 2019
Christmas Business Drink
Location: Warsaw More info will be announced via our website
10 March 2020
Location: InterContinental Hotel Emilii Plater 49, Warsaw Time: 18.30 - 21.00
17 December 2019
‘Ease of Doing Business’ with World Bank
New Year’s Reception
International New Year’s Reception Location: Piękna Restaurant Kilińskiego 74, Łódź Time: 17.30 – 21.00
Speed Business Mixer Location: Poznań More info will be announced via our website
14 April 2020
Business Drink Location: Warsaw More info will be announced via our website
Location: Poznań More info will be announced via our website
30 January 2020
Business Drink Location: Warsaw More info will be announced via our website
Location: Warsaw More info will be announced via our website
12 May 2020
Business Drink Location: Warsaw More info will be announced via our website
Please follow our NPCC website: www.nlchamber.com.pl for an updated calendar issue 69
Daphne Bergsma, the new Dutch Ambassador in Poland Daphne Bergsma was appointed as the new Ambassador of the Netherlands in Poland and Belarus earlier this year. Ambassador Bergsma is a seasoned diplomat with experience in the region from postings in Berlin, Moscow and Bratislava. Bulletin asked her about her first impressions of the country and her plans for the upcoming period.
I’ve spent most of my career in Europe, with postings abroad in Berlin, Moscow and Bratislava. My husband was a diplomat also and we worked for quite a long period at the ministry in The Hague. I worked on migration and asylum policy, on security issues (NATO/ OSCE), as a spokeswoman and on consular issues. Before coming to Warsaw, I was Director of the Europe Department and in charge of bilateral relations with 54 countries in Europe. On a personal note, I am a widow and grandmother of 4 grandchildren, 2 girls and 2 (twin) boys.”
Can you tell us something about yourself and your previous postings?
Why did you choose Poland?
“I joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs more than 30 years ago, in 1987. I had always wanted to do something “with other countries” and that’s why I studied cultural anthropology at Amsterdam University. It was only after I finished my studies that I read about the Foreign Service and decided to apply.
“I came to the ministry as a specialist on Middle Eastern Affairs, but I never worked in that region… My first posting abroad was in Berlin from 1993-1996 and that’s where I fell in love with Central and Eastern Europe. My husband joined the ministry as a specialist on Indonesia, and even though he worked for several years in that field, he also became very interested in this part of Europe. We were able to travel
extensively around the region, not only from Berlin but also from Moscow and Bratislava. Even when I was the OSCE coordinator, from 1996-2002, I would come to Warsaw every autumn for a meeting on human rights. It was very interesting to see the city change from year to year. As Europe director, I would also come here regularly, accompanying the Minister of Foreign Affairs. I learned a lot about Poland’s history, society and economic development, and I found it all fascinating. So when I heard that the position of ‘Ambassadeur Warschau’ had become available, I applied. And I got it! It was number one on my list so I am very happy to be here!” You have been working in Poland for a few months now in your new position. What are your first impressions? “Thanks to my previous position as Director of the Europe Department, which involved visiting Poland on several occasions, I was already quite familiar with the country and many of the domains and issues which are relevant to our mutual relations. It was only after my first two months in office, however, that I fully realised just how dynamic the developments ‘on the ground’ actually are in many areas, and not only in the capital Warsaw but in many other cities and regions around the country. Moreover, the intensity and variety of our bilateral relations is overwhelming. It was particularly nice to learn that the Netherlands enjoys a strong reputation in Poland, not only as a popular tourist destination but especially also because of our historical connections, and our solid economic and political ties. In particular, the cooperation with Dutch companies and businesspeople, and Dutch know-how in various economic sectors, including agriculture of course, is strongly appreciated in this country. Last but not least, many Polish people I have spoken with in the last two months have personal connections with the Netherlands through friends and family due to the sizeable Polish community in the Netherlands and the many economic and cultural exchanges between our country. Thanks to the close and mutually appreciated Polish-Dutch partnership, the ‘doors are open’ to Dutch people at all levels of society, which makes me feel welcome in this country. I am very happy that I’ve found here a well-run embassy with a dedicated staff! We will continue to work enthusiastically together as a team to further strengthen our Dutch footprint in Poland.”
export partner, while the Netherlands is Poland’s 6th largest export market. In 2013, the value of Dutch exports to Poland amounted to around €9.2bn, but by 2018 this figure had grown to approximately €13bn, which represents an increase of close to 40%. To illustrate the relative significance of this: the Netherlands exported ‘just’ €10bn in 2018 to economic superpower China, a significantly lower amount. Moreover, we are one of the biggest foreign investors in Poland and, in terms of cumulative investments in Poland through the Netherlands, even the biggest. And finally, over 2,000 Dutch companies are active in Poland, either as investors or traders. In view of these impressive numbers, the Netherlands government has recently earmarked Poland as one of the 25 economic focus countries of the Dutch International Trade Agenda. In practice, this means, for example, that more financial instruments of our government are available to support trade promotional activities in order to further boost our bilateral economic relations. And then it is also more likely that Dutch ministers will become directly involved in bilateral economic activities, such as last year’s company mission led by the Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, Cora van Nieuwenhuizen. All this obviously means that supporting Dutch companies in Poland, and promoting our bilateral economic relations in a broader sense, is a top priority for the Embassy and myself. In more concrete terms, this means that the Embassy will continue supporting Dutch companies by informing them about significant opportunities in specific market segments, for example through commissioning and sharing market assessment reports on specific topics such as e-mobility and offshore wind energy; by providing companies with solid, tailor-made advice and dealing with troubleshooting cases; by organising activities such as seminars and networking events to help companies find business partners in Poland; and by co-organising Dutch company missions to Poland or Polish ‘influencer’ visits to the Netherlands (to demonstrate to groups of highly influential Polish individuals top Dutch technical and policy know-how in particular fields). Moreover, a less visible but equally important way in which we support Dutch companies are our efforts on the more abstract (policy) and public diplomacy level to ensure a level playing field, improve market access for our companies to the Polish market and boost the reputation of the Netherlands and the visibility of Dutch expertise in particular fields at the non-governmental grassroots level.”
How do you intend to support Dutch companies in Poland in the coming years?
Can you tell us more about the topics that you will focus on in the coming period?
“Let me start by giving you some context. Poland’s importance as a trade partner for the Netherlands is growing. It is already our 8th largest
“I think it’s important to emphasise that the Embassy of course stands ready to support companies from all sectors. In the Dutch
International Trade Agenda there is a particular focus on a number of sectors, the so-called top sectors, where Dutch companies internationally have the strongest added value and competitive advantage, as well as the desire to internationalise their activities. For Poland, the most relevant top sectors (in terms of the interest of Dutch companies to become active in Poland and the level of demand on the Polish side) are, in our view, agri&food/horticulture, energy, water & maritime, logistics and, to some extent, the creative industries and life sciences & health. The overlapping cross-sectoral issues of the climate and energy transition are topics of key importance, especially where sustainability and economic development go hand-in-hand. This focus on ‘green growth’ is very important to me, to the Embassy and also to our Cabinet in The Hague because it can actually contribute to the fulfilment of the SDGs, Sustainable Development Goals, and at the same time generate commercial opportunities for our companies. Excellent examples of topics which fit our ‘green growth’ agenda for Poland are offshore wind energy, e-mobility, greening cities and the circular economy. Finally, I want to mention our work in the agricultural sector, where the Sustainable Development Goals also play an important role. Changing climate conditions, the risk of water shortages and the sandy soil all make the Polish agricultural sector more vulnerable in the near future. Dutch knowledge and solutions can help it to adapt, for example in improving soil quality. This was also one of the main topics during our Circular Agriculture Day at the Embassy in October, as well as the prevention of food waste. It was great to see so many people had an interest in joining in what the Netherlands calls ‘farming the future’. Our agricultural research institutions also work together. Wageningen University has very close cooperation with three institutes in Poland and there are currently around 50 joint research projects within the framework of the EU. Although our agricultural sectors are different, coming from a different historical background, both the Netherlands and Poland gain by sharing knowledge. Not only on a business and research level, but also on a governmental one. Since the summer, we have had various bilateral meetings on the implementation of EU regulations, such as in the area of plant regulations. The Netherlands has a strong interest here, also due to the growing level of flower and plant exports to Poland. Thanks to its flourishing economy, Poland is now the 5th largest export destination for the Dutch flower sector. I’m already looking forward to the European Florist Championship in Poland in June 2020!
For next year, the Embassy will continue to focus on dialogue with the Polish government on policy-related topics such as the future of the Common Agricultural Policy, supporting Dutch companies in the agri-food sector, with a particular focus on those which contribute to sustainable agriculture, and also on the exchange between our research institutes.” At the recent general election, the Polish people again chose a government that is very self-aware. Does this make the diplomatic work at the Netherlands Embassy in Warsaw more difficult? “Our bilateral relations with Poland have been excellent in the last few years and I am confident this situation will remain the same in the next few years. Our trade relations are booming, we are one of the largest foreign investors in Poland and I am confident that an increasing number of Polish investors will find their way to the Netherlands in the near future. We are also strong partners at the political level, which was confirmed by the visit on 29th and 30th October of President Duda to the Netherlands when he met with His Majesty King Willem-Alexander and Her Majesty Queen Máxima, and Prime Minister Rutte. The President also attended the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Breda by the First Armoured Division of General Stanisław Maczek, a fact that the Dutch nation will never forget. In the EU arena, the Netherlands and Poland are also like-minded on important topics, such as the EU internal market and issues relating to the EU’s fiscal architecture. Moreover, both the Netherlands and Poland have a strong pro-Atlantic orientation. Even when it comes to topics where we sometimes have partially different visions, such as in the field of climate policy, things are not quite so black-and-white as they sometimes seem. A slightly different vision on EU climate ambitions does not exclude cooperation on related issues, such as urban climate adaptation, renewable energy development and the electrification of car fleets. As in any relationship there are issues we agree on and those where we hold different opinions; our job and challenge as diplomats is to try to find ways to bridge those differences or at least bring our views closer to one another. I look forward to taking up this challenge in the next few years. I would like to end with the words Prime Minister Rutte used at his meeting with President Duda on October 30: I would like to toast to the strong ties between Poland and the Netherlands in the past, the present and the future!”
news and events
Business Drink with KLM On 9 October, the NPCC organised its monthly Business Drink at the premises of the newly-opened PURO Hotel in Warsaw. On this occasion, the event was supported and sponsored by KLM, who were celebrating their 100th anniversary on the market.
The official part started with warm welcomes being given by the regional chairman of the Gdańsk region, Peter Horsten, and Operations Manager Anna Zadrożna. The members and guests were given more details about the success of the Orange Ball, the cooperation which has started recently between the NPCC and NLinBusiness, and some upcoming events. The floor was then taken by Frantisek Siling, Country Sales Manager of Air France-KLM Poland, who shared with the audience a fascinating presentation and film about KLM’s journey from its formation on 7 October 1919 to the present day. Especially for the occasion, the company had also prepared some fantastic prizes for the business card lottery – a travel bag, two bags full of great gadgets as well as two return plane tickets from Warsaw to Amsterdam. Congratulations to the lucky winners! After the official part of the evening, the group of over 40 guests were able to spend some valuable time mingling and networking, enjoying as they did so some delicious food and wine served by the hotel.
Business Mixer at Kraków Technology Park On 30 September, we once again had the opportunity to co-organise a Speed Business Mixer in Kraków, with the event this time taking place in a very original venue belonging to Kraków Technology Park. The meeting, which was organised jointly by six bilateral chambers (Netherlands, British, Belgian, French, Spanish and Ukrainian) in conjunction with Kraków Technology Park, attracted over 40 members from the different organisations. Following the warm welcome and opening of the meeting, the participants had the opportunity to take part in an interesting presentation and debate about Industry 4.0 in the Małopolska region, after which they participated in direct networking sessions with potential business partners. Thanks to this unique formula and the new set-up, each participant had the chance to make
many new direct contacts. After the Speed Business Mixer, the participants then had the chance to enjoy a networking session in larger groups while enjoying some tasty snacks and a delicious glass of wine.
news and events
Speed Business Mixer in Warsaw digitalisation within the organisation, which involved a group of panellists discussing the question of how it will influence various spheres of business. One of the speakers, and the sponsor from the NPCC, was Rogier Klop – Managing Director of LeasePlan, one of the leading lease companies in the world.
On 5 November, the NPCC, in conjunction with 12 other bilateral chambers of commerce, held the annual International Speed Business Mixer in Warsaw. The event attracted over 300 participants and was an excellent opportunity
for members to introduce their businesses to many other potential international partners. Taking place in the luxurious setting of the Marriott Hotel in Warsaw, the official part of the evening started with a debate on
After an interesting and instructive debate, the guests then took their seats in the designated circles for the evening’s main event of the Speed Business Mixer. Following this official part of the event, the participants had the opportunity to engage in a little networking over some delicious wine and finger food. We would like to thank LeasePlan for supporting this successful networking event.
NPCC and NLinBusiness present at offshore wind energy fair in RAI
The NPCC and NLinBusiness were present at the Offshore Energy Exhibition & Conference (OEEC) on 7-8 October. Ben van de Vrie, Chairman of the NPCC’s Netherlands chapter, NPCC Managing Director Elro van den Burg and Sander van Helvoort (Peterson Energy Logistics) all gave speeches to the assembled audience at the fair, in which they
presented the current state of affairs in Poland and discussed the opportunities for Dutch enterprises in this specific market. Ben van de Vrie presented a macroeconomic outline of the economy in Poland, highlighting the high growth pace and the ever-increasing purchasing power which offers many opportunities for Dutch entrepreneurs.
be completed by 2025. His tips for doing business in this sector in Poland were: “Show yourself in the market and make sure you get a strong identity locally, working together with local partners.”
Elro van den Burg’s presentation, meanwhile, focused on the energy market in Poland and the fact that 80% of energy production is currently coming from coal, which means that considerable steps need to be taken to comply with EU directives – and this also offers significant opportunities for Dutch entrepreneurs in this field. Finally, Sander van Helvoort (Peterson Energy Logistics) spoke about the building of offshore wind farms in Poland, the first one of which is due to
The NPCC team in Łódź was present at the press conference announcing the new theme park called Mandoria, City of Adventures.
The NPCC also joined a number of other events:
On 29 October, NPCC chairman Coen Meijer attended a lunch at Noordeinde Palace in the presence of King WillemAlexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands to mark the visit of President Andrzej Duda and his wife, Agata Kornhauser-Duda.
news and events
Transport Seminar attracts over 100 participants Due to the support from NLinBusiness, an incoming mission from the Port of Rotterdam also joined the event. The Intermodal Container Terminal was the perfect place for the guests to share their knowledge, innovations and experiences in the dynamic field of logistics. During the morning, the NPCC had organised matchmaking meetings for the incoming companies from Rotterdam, while in the afternoon many guests toured the newly-built venue of the CLIP Group.
Around one hundred transport and logistics experts participated in the second edition of this Transport and Logistics event.
conference and networking event organised by the NPCC and the Netherlands Embassy.
The NPCC’s members from the transport sector from throughout Poland joined the event to discuss topics such as Brexit and to hear presentations on sustainable transport solutions.
The participants gathered at the CLIP Group terminal to discuss issues connected to sustainability and efficiency during a joint
WE’RE NOT ABOUT WINES WE’RE ABOUT SENSATIONS
Ball 2019 Over 300 guests
NPCC designated the third NLinBusiness hub
Orange Ball This year’s Orange Ball, the flagship event of the Netherlands-Polish Chamber of Commerce, was once again a roaring success. Held on 21 September in the InterContinental Hotel in Warsaw, the charity ball was attended by over 300 entrepreneurs and business owners and it raised a total of over 55,000 zloty for our chosen charity – the Gajusz Foundation. Jimmie Wilson, our all-time favourite performer, kept the audience on the dancefloor until 2 am, while our guests also loved the new food concept, which was a mix of international and Indonesian cuisine.
During the annual Orange Ball in Warsaw, the NetherlandsPolish Chamber of Commerce formally joined the global network of NLinBusiness hubs. The signing ceremony of the draft agreement took place during the event, and Managing Director Edo Offerhaus (NLIB) and Chairman Coen Meijer (NPCC) both gave short speeches. “The connection of the NPCC to our network makes doing business in Poland again a lot easier for SME entrepreneurs,” said Edo Offerhaus, Managing Director of NLinBusiness. “You not only have a good business club in Poland that can help with important networking, matchmaking and knowledge about the Polish business market, but through the close cooperation between the NPCC and the Dutch Embassy in Warsaw we create a powerful package of soft landing services in Poland,” he said. Coen Meijer, Chairman of the NPCC, added: “The partnership with NLinBusiness gives VNO-NCW, MKB-Netherlands and 240 trade associations in the Netherlands a connection to our network and vice versa. This benefits all parties.”
NPCC Vice Chairman Ben van de Vrie signs the cheque for the Gajusz Foundation
As the evening got underway, the guests, all smartly-dressed in black tie or evening dresses with an orange accent, entered the foyer. Any guests that didn’t have an orange accent to their attire were given one, such as an orange bow tie or bracelet, which meant that everybody perfectly fitted the occasion. The guests then had to pass through a darkened room where they received a glass of champagne from the hands of body-painted hostesses. It was a great way to get in the mood for the evening ahead.
PLN 55,000 raised for charity
Many of the guests were dressed in orange attire
The main sponsors of the evening were Hitachi Capital Polska, Emil Frey Polska and ING Bank Śląski, and they were all very prominent: Emil Frey’s MB Motors had arranged for a new Mercedes Benz EQC, the first electric vehicle produced by Mercedes, to be imported from Germany especially for the occasion, making this the first time that people in Poland had the chance to see one. Not to be outdone, Emil Frey’s Bawaria Motors also placed a BMW outside the hotel to grab the guests’ attention. Hitachi Capital put a small truck outside as well, and a Tesla Model S and a Mini in the lobby. Emil Frey and Hitachi then jointly organised a shuttle service, with 8 cars waiting outside to drive the guests safely home.
Daphne Bergsma, the Dutch Ambassador, opens the buffet with a traditional gong
Before dinner was served, the audience was introduced to the charity cause for the evening – the Gajusz Foundation. Based in Łódź, the charity provides a permanent perinatal hospice for children which allows the young patients to spend their most valued and treasured days in comfort with their parents by their side. The Gajusz Foundation provides round-the-clock free medical, psychological and social care for the children, with the permanent hospice facility being a place where terminally-ill children can stay if they don’t have the possibility of parental care at home. Special raffle tickets were on sale throughout the evening and there was also a silent auction where guests could bid for various items. The top prizes included two long-haul plane tickets to a faraway destination donated by Air France-KLM, and a weekend in a Tesla car together with an overnight stay, donated by Hitachi Capital Polska. Other top prizes included a shirt donated by Bayern Munich player Robert Lewandowski and three exclusive bottles of vodka from Belvedere Vodka. We would like to thank all the companies concerned for donating the wonderful prizes, particularly as the total amount raised by the raffle tickets and the silent auction reached an impressive 55,000 PLN. The evening was hosted by Malgorzata Neumann, who is well-known for presenting the Miss Polonia events. Up on the main stage, Jimmie Wilson dazzled with his performance of the Boney M song “Daddy Cool” together with singer Monika Szczot, a semi-finalist in the Voice of Poland, from the Emil Frey Band. Jimmie also delivered a beautifully intimate performance of Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose”.
The winner (second from left) of two international flight tickets, together with country manager Frantisek Siling (third from left) of Air France - KLM
NPCC supported and donated over PLN 55,000 to the Gajusz Foundation PR Manager Aleksandra Marciniak of the Gajusz Foundation explains what will be done with the money raised during the Orange Ball 2019 “The money will go towards supporting the terminally-ill children who live in the Palace (our permanent hospice). One of them is one-year-old Alexandra, who is in hospital in Warsaw right now waiting for a liver transplant. She needs to be cared for by our caring nannies, because we believe that love can work miracles. “And there’s also 8-year-old Jacob, who has been living in our Palace for 5 years now and needs our support. He suffers from cerebral palsy, which is a group of permanent movement disorders. His mother had a serious car accident so his father had to take care of the three older children. Our therapists help Jacob to develop his motor skills and we hope that this will help him to find a loving family.” Taking into consideration the scale of the Gajusz Foundation’s operations, do you think that the contribution from the Orange Ball 2019 can make a difference? “The Gajusz Foundation takes care of over 500 families per year. We are able to do that because there are people around who understand the special needs our children have. The donation from the Orange Ball was PLN 55,390 (more than EUR 13,000) and this amount will enable us to take good care of our little princes and princesses. The support of the National Health Fund covers about 60% of our expenses so these kinds of events are crucial for our organisation. The donors’ generosity matters hugely, and they can actually change the lives of these terminally ill children.”
Guests of one of the main Sponsors - Hitachi Capital Polska, enjoy a great evening
The guests, mainly Dutch companies in Poland and their own invited guests, came from regions all around the country. The table from Łódź was particularly visible on account of the bright orange suits worn by several of the people sitting there. Right after Jimmie Wilson’s second performance, the Netherlands Ambassador in Poland, H.E. Daphne Bergsma, opened the Orange Ball main buffet with a firm blow on the gong. In line with Orange Ball tradition, dozens of famous Indonesian dishes were served, made from richly coloured ingredients of varying degrees of spiciness, such as spring rolls, fish and marinades. Added to this year’s exquisite menu were several dishes from international cuisine, such as baked whole salmon, Polish beef tenderloin and beef tartare. The musical highlight of the evening was the performance by our popular favourite Jimmie Wilson with his band. The moment when he took to the stage was when the party really got started and the Emil Frey Band also delivered a top performance. Jimmie kept the people
Executive Chef Mariusz Jeznach: “The guests are our judges”
The Orange Ball has now been organised with the team from the InterContinental hotel in Warsaw five times. What did you think of this year’s event? dancing until late into the evening and he was undoubtedly one of the main reasons that made this event such a tremendous success. We would like to extend our gratitude and appreciation to the sponsors and partners of the event. Such a fantastic event would not have been possible without the help of the main sponsors – ING Bank Śląski, Hitachi Capital Polska and Emil Frey Polska. We would also like to thank our gold sponsors – PF Concept, Exact, BNP Paribas, Philips Polska, Air France–KLM and Grupa Żywiec – and our silver sponsors Zeelandia, BNP Paribas Real Estate, Gosselin Transport, Raben and Bols Vodka, as well as the volunteers from the Gajusz Foundation for their help at the event itself. We would also like to thank BM Housing for providing their furniture for free and ViniVino for their excellent wines. This event would also not have been possible without the support of the Orange Ball organising committee and the executive team – Eric van Vliet, Erik Drukker, Martien Brink, Peter Stolker, Maurice Idsardi, Timea Balajcza, Elro van den Burg, Anna Zadrożna and Milena Zychowicz.
Executive Chef Mariusz Jeznach: “I think that from a food and beverage point of view, this year was a big success. There was a bigger selection of food on offer due to the additional international dishes. Not everyone likes Asian or Indonesian food, so the guests had a bigger variety to choose from. There were four live stations, and the items we chose for these stations were popular and well appreciated. This was part of the success because people like to interact with the chefs at the stations.” Did the Orange Ball require extensive preparation of the kitchen at the InterContinental Hotel? “For large functions like the Orange Ball, we sometimes start a week before the event. We need to buy some ingredients well in advance and marinate them. The cooking and the main preparations took place both the day before and on the day of the event itself as we like to serve the food as fresh as possible. Apart, of course, from some of the products that needed to be pickled, which is time-consuming. The guys in my team have been with me for a long time, which makes me very happy. And some of the new people are always very excited to prepare the Orange Ball too. They like to make something new and have that new experience in the kitchen.” How do you and your staff in the kitchen know whether or not the guests are enjoying the food? You are always pushed for time and you are far away from the party.
Body painted hostesses give away welcome drinks to arriving guests
“The guests often come up to us during our work and complement us on the food. For me, the guests are our judges. Many of them are very frank and they say if the food is good or not. And the day after the Orange Ball, we had a team meeting where I thanked my team for their hard work and effort. That was a nice meeting when we got the chance to share lots of positive stories about the Orange Ball.”
on new directions in recruitment Employers are increasingly looking towards the Far East with hope, believing that workers from Asian countries will turn out to be the long-awaited solution to their problems. Tomasz Dudek, Managing Director CEE at OTTO Work Force, explains just why employing workers from that region is a great step into the future.
What made OTTO decide to recruit workers from Asian countries?
What is the current situation on the Polish labour market?
Thanks to our cooperation with organisations from Asia, we are able to accurately verify the candidates’ qualifications and check how they fit the needs of a given company. The Asian recruiters check their professional, language and communication skills, while we also have access to local vocational schools that provide the skills required to perform specific jobs, such as welding or sewing. Our Asian partners are familiar with the local conditions, regulations and mentality of the candidates. They are able to anticipate any potential problems that may come out during the recruitment process and therefore, ultimately, we get highly-qualified workers who can enhance our clients’ workforces.”
“The labour market in Poland has changed into an employee market. Unemployment has hit a historic low and staff shortages continue to deepen. Over the past few years, almost all the leading Polish industries and economic sectors have been experiencing shortfalls in their active workforce. This situation is not going to improve in the foreseeable future due to the demographic crisis resulting from low birth rates dating from the beginning of the 1990s. Labour shortages translate into higher wage demands as well as rising nonfinancial expectations among the workforce. Although in recent years employers have effectively bridged the labour gap with workers from Ukraine, the needs of the economy keep growing and more and more Ukrainians are now choosing other labour markets than Poland.” Can workers from Asia be a real opportunity for the European labour market? “The current situation is forcing Poland to enter into competition with other countries for recruiting and keeping workers. The Ukrainians who chose Poland as their country of employment are not enough to meet the demand in staffing. This is the main reason why recruitment companies are now broadening their search, and looking to markets further afield, such as India, Nepal, Vietnam and the Philippines. The strategy of importing workers from Asia seems to be the only viable option to sustain our economy when European workers are no longer available. In addition, according to employers, workers from the Far East adjust easily to life in Poland. Due to the geographical distance, cultural differences, language and legal barriers, companies often seek the assistance of temporary employment agencies familiar with Asian social and cultural conditions and the work environment there. These agencies deal with all the formalities: from selecting the candidates in Asia to employing them in Poland.”
“Recruiting workers from Asia is a new chapter for OTTO Work Force. Our strategic cooperation with the Japanese group OUTSOURCING Inc. (OSI), and its strong position on the Asian market, has allowed us to enter the global recruitment market. OSI’s organisational structure and the long-standing experience of its recruiters guarantee the recruitment of high-quality workers from the Far East, who are increasingly sought after on the Polish labour market.
Which countries in Asia are your first workers from? Which sectors are they employed in? “Currently, we are recruiting our first workers from Indonesia and Vietnam. We are looking for blue-collar workers for the manufacturing industry, logistics, the clothing industry and processing. In the future, we plan to recruit specialised workers, like engineers and IT specialists with fluent English. We always try to adjust our services to the everchanging requirements of our clients.” How can companies benefit from hiring workers from Asia? “Hiring workers from Asian countries is a great step into the future for entrepreneurs who have their company’s long-term strategy in mind. For one thing, Asian workers are highly competent and have a broad professional scope. A work permit authorises them to work legally in Poland for at least a year, which prevents frequent rotation. As an employment company, we strive not only to satisfy our clients with the quality of our foreign workers, but also to provide comfortable working conditions for those workers. We believe the foundation of a company’s success is its staff.”
Column Huub Droogh Huub Droogh is an urbanist and partner of RDH Urban in Poznań
ANALOGUE LIFE, DIGITAL WORLD AND PROFESSIONS OF THE PAST… There are drivers in Poland with the annoying habit of bumping into someone else’s car, and over the years my Saab became a favourite target. Result is that over the last 8 years almost the entire car’s bodywork had to be replaced. Production of the Saab trademark stopped in 2011and the waiting time for spare parts recently started to exceed two months. So despite its more than 400,000 km of loyal service, it became clear to me that, from a business perspective, the car had become too inefficient to continue using. So it was with pain in my heart that I decided it was ‘time over’ and off I went to look for a new one… Taking lessons from the past, I decided that it would be best to go for a robust model which has spare parts available on every street corner. Secondly, it was important to have a convenient location for the car’s servicing. Even without accidents, the regular tyre change means at least two visits a year for servicing. Taking into account the traffic jams within the Poznań agglomeration, I took a look at the map and selected two competitively-located dealerships selling popular trademarks. I took the decision to pay a visit to both locations to see for myself what they could offer and at what prices. My visit to the showrooms seemed to eliminate one straightaway. The still-present sales manager didn’t show any compassion when I tried to open the door of his showroom at 16.01. The sign on the door clearly stated the closing time on Saturdays (!) was 16.00… Obviously, he didn’t need me as a client. The second dealership, meanwhile, presumably spent its entire marketing budget on having a daily presence on social media instead of coaching its sales team. Despite the presence of four salesmen behind shiny desks, none of them showed even the slightest interest in the few customers walking around the showroom. The fancy laptops on their desks absorbed their attention completely. They were
probably too busy updating their Facebook timelines… Then the idea came to me. If they can find their answers there, why shouldn’t I? Back at home, I switched on my computer and… I was right: all the answers to my questions were right there. With the help of a ‘car configurator’, you can build your own customised car and turn a basic model car into a tailor-made product, without being distracted by the comments of smooth-talking salesmen. So, after two hours of playing around with all the possibilities, I decided which car and accessories I wanted and then I looked for the ‘order’ button. But, unfortunately, it turned out that it’s not possible (yet) to buy a car via an internet shop… Forced by this inconvenience to return to the showroom with the shiny desks, I disturbed one of the salesmen in his important business and handed over a printout of my tailor-made car. His reaction was that he started to copy the information I had given him, with the support of his fancy laptop, into the exact same configurator I had used at home. After twenty minutes of concentrated work, he looked up from his screen and proudly announced the price of the car I wanted. And of course, it was the same price that my configurator had already shown me at home. Unfortunately, however, due to the customisation decisions I had made, the dealership where he worked couldn’t offer me a test drive in a car with those technical specifications I had chosen… Besides the discount which you can surprisingly still negotiate for a commodity such as a car, the added value of the salesman and his shiny showroom during the whole buying/selling process turned out to be zero. The car configurator that I had used at home turned out to be more informative and showed more ‘human compassion’ than the untrained salesman with his fancy laptop. And that got me thinking as I was driving home about what discount I could get if the car manufacturers could somehow bypass the interference of such ‘sales organisations’. By the time of my next new car purchase in a few years’ time, that will definitely be the standard…
This column is written à titre personnel and does not necessarily reflect the views of the NPCC board or its members.
Eric van Vliet, President of Hitachi Capital Polska:
“We are currently working on takeovers in 3 countries in Central Europe” Hitachi Capital Polska is showing sound financial results just one year after its merger with Planet Car Lease. We sat down with president Eric van Vliet to talk about those results and the car market in Poland in general. Can you give us an update on how well Hitachi has been doing since the merger with Planet in March last year? “On a scale from one to ten, I would give us at least an eight. We came from a merger in March 2018 with Planet that was doing well, but Hitachi needed a lot of restructuring. We started that restructuring and expected that in the financial year starting from April 2018 and ending in April 2019 we would end with a break-even result. However, we were already able to announce a positive result, and in our new budget
year from April we are currently 56% above budget. So we are doing very well, the automotive market is doing well and Poland in general is doing very well. All factors are very positive.” And what is the reason why everything is going so well? “It is the combination of all the elements that makes the market so positive. As I mentioned, the automotive market is in its infancy still. The developments that we saw in Spain 10 years ago, and in the Netherlands 15 to 20 years ago, are now also visible in Poland. If we look back at history, Poles couldn’t buy products in communist times, and private ownership was not common. Then good cars became available and for a long time people in Poland wanted to own them. But then came the second phase when, instead of buying cars outright, many people and companies bought them on financial leasing. Good examples of this from the retail sector are IKEA and Media Markt. They
financed there products, which became established pretty quickly. And now we are going to the third phase, which is full-service leasing. This product includes all elements, so you don’t have to worry about a thing, and companies are now slowly moving over from financing to full-service leasing. When we look at western countries, we see the development of private full-service leasing and we expect that to happen in Poland too, eventually.” If we look at the figures for the leasing market in Poland, we see that the sector up to 3.5 tonnes has grown by 30.7%, which is incredibly interesting.
I also see that Hitachi Capital Polska is very active in tenders in Poland. Is that a difficult procedure? “Applying for a tender is a complicated matter. They are prescribed vehicles with clear specifications, and there are not many companies in our branch that are able to bid for the larger tenders. We are currently involved in a tender and quite often there are only 2 or 3 parties in the bidding process. The rules for applying are very strict and you can easily get penalties of several million zlotys, so you have to be very careful with what you offer.”
“Indeed, it is. If we look at the market for full operational cars, there are around 250,000 vehicles. And looking at a small country like the Netherlands, we can see that two companies already have this number of cars on their own. In the UK there are companies that have 350,000 cars. That shows the opportunities that are still possible in the Polish market. And when the market becomes saturated in the future, then there will still be new opportunities for private leasing. So I still see opportunities in this market for the next 20 years.” And when you look at vehicles above 3.5 tonnes, how is that segment doing? “That segment is doing just as well as regular cars. Our strength at Hitachi Capital Polska is that we offer vehicles over the full range, from the Fiat Seicento up to the Range Rover Sport, Mercedes S Class, Tesla up to 44 ton. We are the only player in the market with this offer, with vehicles above 3.5 tonnes. We have 44-tonne trucks, but the segment between 3.5 and 16 tonnes is also very popular. Those vehicles are bigger than vans and they are all custom-made for our clients, who all have different requirements. They are custom built up like a construction kit composed of elements from different suppliers, such as van lifts and refrigeration systems, and bringing all those elements together on time is a logistical challenge.” A very important element in leasing is the return value of the vehicle. How do you calculate that for these commercial vehicles? “We have a special department which makes those calculations and that is a speciality in itself. And we always start by advising any client who is leasing a new commercial vehicles with us. From the perspective of the resale of used vehicles, we advise clients who take new models to go for popular specifications. Sometimes it’s better to make the loading space for the commercial vehicles a bit bigger because we know that, in its second life, we will be able to sell it much more easily. Our clients are then offered this additional space without any additional cost. In general, we keep our commercial vehicles in this segment for 6 to 8 years. When they come back from the first owner, we have a large group of clients looking for used vehicles who can take them. Some of these commercial vehicles also go into shortterm rental, which is for clients that are waiting for a new vehicle to be built or whose own vehicle is damaged but they need to be mobile. It is very important to be able to supply those companies directly. And we use second-life vehicles for that. On top of all that, there are also clients that have a demand for seasonal transport, with a bigger need for transport around December, for instance, and so we need this type of used commercial vehicles for them too.”
Are these tenders one of the pillars of success for Hitachi Capital Polska this year? “They are part of it and, as I just mentioned, there are not many that can participate in these offers. When it comes to vans and trucks especially, we are unique in the market. We have limited competition there.” There are many negative stories going around about tendering and how difficult it is for foreign companies to compete with Polish ones. What is your experience? “We have only had good experiences with tenders. However, we do participate in them often and it has always been a fair process. We don’t have the feeling that we are discriminated against because we are a foreign company.” And what about the remark that it’s always about money and not about quality? “We have just won a big government tender. That was 70% about price and the other 30% was about penalties for higher or lower mileage than agreed in the contract, which is basically also about price. But Poles are price buyers, and this is reflected in the final product they buy. This is significantly different from other European countries.” But do you also participate in tenders that are only about money? “Yes, we do, and we calculate a fair price for our products. As a result, we sometimes lose out because the quality we offer is not recognised.
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You’ve been living in Poland for a long time now and you know Polish people well. Are they in favour of green alternatives? “Yes, in my opinion, they are. However, for many of them it is not about green solutions but about price. That’s why, especially in the case of electric cars, the government has to play its role. Electric cars are currently too expensive but when there is a good tax regime on these cars, the market will get up and running and Poles will buy electric cars.” How about your own sales of electric cars? “They are going well. We have our own Tesla and the Maxus EV80 electric van. We have some clients that are interested, especially local governments such as the cities of Wrocław and Kraków. And the car that is most attractive to our clients is the Nissan Leaf.” We recently lost a tender on price, but the party that won missed out two serious points from the tender documents and therefore they will have to be excluded. As a result, we will still won that tender. Sometimes you are rewarded in these procedures for being smart, for reading the tender documents very carefully and offering exactly what is requested.” That means that when the focus is so much on price, it is difficult for companies that focus on quality to participate. “That is true, and I think that it will still take a while before they request more quality in tenders. We can see that throughout the whole market. In retail, for instance, a company like Piotr and Pawel, or Albert, the daughter company of Albert Heijn, cannot survive in this market, but price-beater Biedronka is very, very popular. So it’s difficult to say how quickly this change will come. And what can you say about the Polish automotive market in general? “The market is relatively good. However, there are many used cars being imported into Poland, on average one million a year over the past few years. There is a tendency in Brussels to put a restriction on older cars and when this happens there are even more opportunities for us in this market. The premium luxury car segment is also very popular in a country like Poland. SUVs are bestsellers in this country, whereas in the Netherlands you are labelled as anti-social. Obviously, people in Poland look at quality but, first and foremost, they focus on the status of the brand. That’s very important in this market.” And how do you see the market for electric cars in Poland? “There will be a market for electric cars in Poland eventually. However, to make this market successful, you do need support from the government. We can see now that progress is slowly being made. For instance, local governments are introducing electric buses into their public transport systems. The next step is support for regular cars. We can also notice that there are many players from the Netherlands looking to enter the market with solutions for electric cars, and the Netherlands Embassy is promoting e-mobility initiatives in Poland. Due to the pressure that is also coming through European regulations, we expect that this type of transport will gain more traction in Poland in the coming years.”
As the frontrunner in the market for electric cars, you have gained a lot of experience. What are the current obstacles? “What we have noticed, especially when discussing company cars, is the charging infrastructure. This is very important. We are currently working with a very big client that is a distributor of packages. Their thinking is: we have a lot of city transport, and we can easily do all that with electric vehicles. That is a great thought, of course, but when all these vehicles come back to base at the end of the day and need to be charged all at once, there will be too much pressure on the grid. For instance, when I come to my office in the morning to plug in my Tesla, that is not a problem. But when you come with 50 cars that all need to be charged, then there will be problems in the building with the power supply. Hitachi Capital Polska has built its unique position on the market because we also offer an intelligent charging infrastructure. Our charging points communicate with each other and make sure that they are not putting too much pressure on the network. They know the capability of the grid. Furthermore, those charging points are two-way so they can give power back to the grid. So you can use the capacity of the batteries to add power when you have peak capacity in your company. For instance, that package company I mentioned has a huge warehouse in Warsaw where they have sorting belts to sort the packages. They need extra capacity at night for those. The batteries of all the electric cars can be used to support those belts at night, and then after that those batteries can be charged again. So the batteries and charging points help to release peak pressure from the grid. And we are one of the few in Poland that can offer that.” In March 2018, Planet Car Lease and Hitachi Capital Polska merged. What are the plans for the longer-term future? “We are still interested in takeovers, but our first focus is to grow further in Central and Eastern Europe. We are currently working on takeovers in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. We hope to complete them this year and that will add three countries to our network which we will service from our head office here in Warsaw. This will enable us to service our international clients that are also present in those countries. In Poland, we are also actively looking for a takeover and I think we will be able to announce more about that in the third quarter of next year. Takeovers are an important part of our strategy to keep growing bigger.”
Contribution Embassy Bulletin NPCC Urban E-mobility Forum The Netherlands Embassy was a strategic partner to the Urban e-Mobility Forum in Gdynia. It is widely believed that the “e-mobility revolution” currently taking place in the Netherlands will soon also spill over into Poland, which is why the Polish government has ambitious plans in this area and has already made substantial progress, particularly at the municipal level.
In Q1 of next year, the Embassy hopes to organise a public-private fact-finding mission from the Netherlands to Warsaw, including a symposium on e-mobility. Check our website for details!
CIRCULAR WEEK 2019 The circular economy is an important topic which is gaining more and more supporters as it offers a broad area for development over the coming years. The Embassy has been involved in bringing Dutch expertise to Poland to share their experiences in this field and we therefore supported the Polish Circular Hotspot as part of the second edition of Polish Circular Week. Among the Dutch speakers/experts
who contributed to the circular conference and circular week in general were the representatives of the Embassy, the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality in the Netherlands, YSE circular consulting, a business-tobusiness sharing marketplace FLOOW2, Metabolic, the World Startup Factory, Circo and cepezed projects b.v. Check out our website for some short videos from Circular Week!
Circular Agriculture Day in Poland As part of Polish Circular Week 2019, the Embassy organised a Circular Agriculture Day on 10 October. The Dutch government decided to change the economic model of the Netherlands from a linear one to a circular one in order to improve the balance between profit from production and the natural environment. In the agricultural sector, the changes are based on the following principles, which were discussed during Circular Agriculture
Day in Poland: reasonable income from agricultural production, the prevention of food waste and more innovation with a focus on the circular model of agriculture. More information is available online.
Blue and Green Architecture for Sustainability Adapting cities to meet future challenges resulting from climate change, making resilient and inclusive cities with smart landuse and spatial planning, effective leadership, civic consensus and efficient financing – these were the main topics of the workshop organised by the Embassy entitled ‘Blue and Green Architecture for Sustainability’. For this workshop, the Embassy invited two Dutch expert speakers, Mr Rutger de Graaf from Blue 21 Design and Mr Tjerk van Impelen from the City of Utrecht, both of whom shared with the participants their practical experience and vision for the future. Polish stakeholders from
the public and private sectors from Warsaw, Gdańsk, Gdynia, Łódź, Poznań, Piła and Mysłowice joined the discussion, which also included representatives from local governments, architects, urban planners, universities, the Port of Gdynia and the Polish Association of Architects (SARP). For more information, check out our website.
New Agricultural Advisor at the Embassy We would like to introduce and welcome Anna Galica, who will be working for the coming year as Agricultural Advisor at the Embassy. As well as policy issues, she will also
be dealing with market and trade developments in the fields of agriculture, nature, food quality and climate change. Anna’s full profile is available by opening this link: www.agroberichtenbuitenland.nl/landeninformatie/polen/nieuws/2019/11/04/ aa-poland
Medical Engineering Conference The Dutch healthcare system is known for its main principles of accessibility, affordability and innovation. The quality of the Dutch healthcare infrastructure stems from a multidisciplinary approach, taking into account elements such as hospital design, waste management, medical engineering and energy efficiency. On 13 November, the Embassy, in cooperation with the Dutch medical sector, organised the 2nd Medical Engineering Conference where experts
from both the Netherlands and Poland presented innovations which can help to handle medical waste (water) and increase energy efficiency in hospitals. Approximately 50 representatives from the Polish healthcare sector (mainly from Polish hospitals) attended the event, which was opened by Walter Oostelbos, Deputy Head of Mission.
A fully fledged relation! By the time this Bulletin is published, the Embassy’s cultural programme for 2019 will be coming to an end. However, you might still be able to view the last screenings in the “Watch Docs: Human Rights in Film” festival, which runs until December 12, or visit the exhibition “Far Too Many Stories to Fit into So Small a Box” by the Dutch duo Bik van der Pol at the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art. Essentially, though, that’s it for this year from our side in terms of cultural events. At the time of writing this column, although we don’t yet have the final figures for 2019, our estimate is that the number of cultural events in Poland related to the Netherlands – concerts, exhibitions, book translations, lectures, workshops, film screenings, theatre and dance performances etc. – will be somewhere in the region of 170. And that just refers to events which we initiated, were involved in or simply knew about, so there might have been quite a few more. 2019 is/was the year of Rembrandt, with exhibitions devoted to the artist being held in the Royal Castle in Warsaw and also in the Museum of Opole Silesia. It is/was also the year of the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the south of the Netherlands by the 1st Polish armoured division of General Stanisław Maczek, which was the subject of an outdoor exhibition in Warsaw and Breda. 2019 is/was furthermore the year of the commemoration of the 200th birthday of Moniuszko, for which the Orchestra of the 18th Century was invited to Poland by the Chopin Institute in order to perform and record his opera “The Haunted Manor”. This was a huge honour for the orchestra and its musicians, and for the Netherlands! A record-breaking 17 Dutch documentaries were shown at the “Docs Against Gravity” film festival, while the Anne Frank Foundation also presented its new educational exhibition, which will be travelling throughout Poland. Those are just a few of the highlights of our cultural programme from 2019 – a programme that focuses on strengthening the political, social and cultural dialogue between our countries and supports projects which contribute to human rights and promote European values. It’s a programme that aims to assist projects that have a market-expanding effect for the Dutch cultural sector and which contribute to Polish-Dutch cultural relations over the longer term. A programme that promotes Dutch language and literature and increases international awareness of, and appreciation for, the valuable contemporary art coming from the Netherlands, and which strengthens the image of the Dutch cultural sector, as well as its creative industries, as being innovative and outstanding. For the Embassy, using culture as an effective tool of modern diplomacy means: maintaining partners in the relevant networks, supporting and preserving the space around culture both for creators and the general public in order to cultivate a level of social awareness, and supporting cultural education based on the intrinsic value, beauty and quality of the cultural expressions themselves. A fully-fledged relationship between two countries justifies a fully-fledged cultural programme, one that supports
Picture: World Press Photo opening in Katowice political and economic interests. I’m sure I do not have to explain the value to the economic sector of having extensive cultural bilateral relations. Appreciation, understanding, trust, interest, opening doors, imagebuilding and publicity are just a few of the keywords in this respect. Maintaining good bilateral relations is vital in this time of political tension and economic insecurity, a time when public opinion and attitudes across Europe are exhibiting signs of cultural intolerance and ignorance. The current Polish cultural policy currently differs from that of the Dutch, which is based on the intrinsic beauty and sophistication of the arts, as it seems to seek confrontation. Poland’s cultural policy seeks to build a Polish identity on the martyrdom and heroism of Poles who fought against Nazism and Communism in the 20th century, with less space for critical thinking or complicated moral dilemmas. These are two policies that really do not match. However, in full confidence that 2020 will once again provide us with the opportunities to operate and intensify our cultural relations, it is obvious this is not something the Embassy can do just by itself. We depend on the cooperation, willingness, interest and openness of cultural organisations both in the Netherlands and in Poland. We depend on the support of individual artists and curators, NGOs and Dutch language departments at universities, as well as partnering embassies. That’s how it works. We are aware of the fact that your positions as businesspeople, where you are responsible for the financial health of your company and the wellbeing of your staff, force you to set priorities which do not necessarily go handin-hand with engaging your business with the cultural sector. However, there are plenty of examples where teaming up with a cultural institute or event has ended up in a profitable situation for both sides, as some of you will have already experienced. This might be an interesting thought for under your Christmas tree. We here at the Embassy wish only the best for you and your business in 2020.
ING’s Chief Economist
“Polish sensitivity to the German recession is low” Bulletin talked to Rafał Benecki, chief economist at ING Bank Śląski, who says that the Polish economy is continuing to grow due to the internal market, though domestic investments are lagging behind. Looking at the economic situation today, after the election in Poland, what is the temperature on the market? “The Polish economy is off its peak and therefore the temperature is lower. Growth this year should be slightly above 4% so still above potential, but the economy is slowing from 5% and next year’s growth should be 3.3%, so close to potential. What is remarkable is that this time around, the Polish economy’s sensitivity to the Eurozone slowdown and German almost-recession is exceptionally low. We carried out research to understand why things look a little different compared to previous business cycles, and several conclusions emerged from our analysis. First of all, the structure of the economy in Poland has changed slightly over the last decade. The economy is more focused on domestic demand because the labour market is tightening, unemployment is at a record low and wages are growing a little faster. So the domestic market is more important than the impact of fluctuations in other economies from our region. We also looked at the structure of Polish exports and, interestingly, we are less exposed to non-Eurozone demand, which is important in the years of Donald Trump’s protectionist policy which has hit global trade and demand from Asia and others. Other CEE economies are either more exposed to non-European demand or too focused on the automotive sectors, so therefore Hungary has experienced a strong deterioration in its trade balance and the Czech Republic’s whole GDP has slowed down.” How about internal consumption, the main driver of growth in Poland over the past few years? “Over the last few years, Poland has experienced a very aggressive fiscal stimulus and the country has moved from a very business-
supportive environment to a more redistributive economy. That’s why the main driver of the Polish economy is consumption, while at the same time investments are not looking that good. That reflects a new redistribution – more money being spent on social benefits, child benefit and the 13th pension at the expense of more rigorous tax collection, which has resulted in private companies adopting quite a cautious approach to investments. This approach has helped growth, but this growth was based more on consumption than investment. During this trade war era, demand in Asia has suffered and this has hit German manufacturing, but it hasn’t been that bad for German domestic demand. Domestic demand in Germany is the final market for Polish production, and that’s also why Polish sensitivity to the German manufacturing slowdown hasn’t been that big. So, to sum up, the performance of the Polish economy has been pretty good, but the structure is a little unfavourable, with too much consumption and not enough investments.” You said that the tax regime is holding back investments in Poland. How does that work? “Poland, like many EU member states, had a problem with VAT collection, the so-called VAT gap. The PiS government, which came to power in 2015, conducts a very rigorous tax policy but it has been effective in reducing VAT crime, which contributes to about 30-40% of the VAT gap. But for the rest, that means higher effective VAT taxes. All these rigorous tax policies are perceived as a higher regulatory and tax risk, and therefore some companies are much more cautious with new investments, especially SMEs. The investments recovered in the first quarter of this year grew quite robustly, with a significant share from utilities and big companies who were catching up with large infrastructure projects. On the other hand, private investments have picked up with a long delay and they are now slowing due to weak external growth.” So you think that the stricter tax policy has had a direct impact on investments? “Yes. We are in a period of transition where companies have had to get used to life with a new electronic tax collection system. There have been many changes in terms of infrastructure, with the VAT
and corporate income tax payment systems becoming increasingly electronic. Simultaneously, the regulations are rapidly changing and this is a kind of fixed cost which is more burdensome for small companies than big ones. For SMEs, it’s a kind of technological revolution in some cases, and as they have to adopt to a stricter and more precise tax policy, they are therefore being more cautious with investments for the time being. But this is not the only reason why investments are growing more slowly than usual. The second reason is the scarcity of labour. The country used to be quite well-placed in terms of labour availability but now we are reaching almost full employment. The Polish growth model is expansionary and strongly reliant on cheap labour, and that also constrains the dynamic. The third important factor is the high level of pessimism among business partners in Germany and around Europe – recent surveys show that exporters are becoming more cautious with regard to the future and their investments than domestic companies.” Looking at the coming year, what can we expect in the economy as a result of the new government? “It’s important to mention that the balance of power in parliament has changed and, unlike in the previous parliament, the opposition now has a majority in the Senate. The upper chamber doesn’t have that many powers but there is still the expectation that there will be more scrutiny with regards to the passing of new laws. The oppositioncontrolled Senate will review new regulations. Next year’s presidential election is crucial because the president still holds the right of veto, so if the new president comes from the opposition, that should strengthen the system of checks and balances in Poland and slow the creation of new laws. The second important issue is the external economic slowdown the ruling party will face in its current term of office. The party leaders claim that they will try to offset the global and Eurozone slowdown and prevent the recession in Germany being passed on to the Polish economy. We still don’t know what the final policy will be as the fiscal space has been used up to a large extent. In the previous four years, we had two waves of spending: right after the previous election in 2015-2016 and then the new wave of spending in 2019-2020. As a result, the Polish deficit in 2021 will be close to 2.5% of GDP, which is actually flirting with the EU threshold. There is not much space on the fiscal side for new social spending. But on the other hand, I think that this government will focus on the investment side and they will probably start new projects, for example the airport hub close to Warsaw. Also, the state-controlled utilities have already started investments in renewables. These are the tools that can be used to sustain investments at a time when the economy will be slowing. I’m not sure whether
new social spending would help GDP. We can see some evidence of overspending as household savings are growing faster while spending is slower than expected. So I think the government should focus on the investment side.” Is the government doing enough to support innovation? “Innovation was definitely a major priority for Prime Minister Morawiecki’s development plan but that innovation part has been something of a failure since the propensity of small companies to invest was much lower than expected, which was a side-effect of the rigorous tax policy, as I mentioned. On the other hand, the Polish development fund was launched to facilitate innovations by starts-ups, and there is a strong focus on that part of the economy. Furthermore, stabilisation of the legal environment and a higher level of trust is key to supporting investments. Poland cannot easily apply the Hungarian model, which attracts big FDIs that increase productivity and exports. The Polish economy is larger, therefore it needs many local and foreign projects around the country. In order to have the engagement of small, medium-sized and big companies in starting investment activities, we need stable institutions and laws, and companies need to have the perception that the regulatory environment will be more predictable. That’s also very important for innovation policy. I think that there is a correlation between how generous social expenditure is and the companies’ confidence level and therefore innovation. Companies are fully aware that over the last 4 years it was the corporate sector which paid for that expenditure with higher effective taxes. We’d prefer the government to stabilise this redistributive policy for a while and slow down the number of laws being passed, so businesses can be less worried about new burdens and they would have more time to adjust to the new tax regulations. Then the propensity to invest can be revived.” You mentioned GDP growth of 4% for 2019 and 3.3% for 2020. How does 2021 look? “Actually, 2021 could be quite tricky for the Polish economy. We will pass the peak of 2019-2020 pre-election social spending, we will also be past the peak of the EU investment cycle, and the delayed impact of the German recession should finally be felt, so we are slightly worried that 2021 will be rather a tricky year which could bring a deeper slowdown. We are being a little pessimistic in seeing GDP growth at below the 3% level that the Central Bank is expecting. It might not be as bad as we are predicting because the government should launch new investment projects and some limited social measures to make GDP growth stronger at the time when these negative factors start to have an effect.”
Adam Czerniak: “The election results will have quite We wanted to get a better feel of what the impact of the recent general election will be on the Polish economy in the coming years. We went to Polityka Insight for a balanced opinion and spoke to PI’s Chief Economist, Adam Czerniak. Looking at the new political situation from the perspective of companies, is there anything to worry about or should we be more positive? Adam Czerniak: “If we look at the election result, we have a ‘new old’ political situation. We have the same ruling party that we’ve had for the last 4 years, but there have been some small changes and the election results will have quite an important impact on the economic policy of the government. Let me start by mentioning the fact that the government is formed by 3 coalition parties. The main party is, of course, Law and Justice but there are two other factions. One of these factions, Porozumienie (Alliance), which was founded by Deputy Prime Minister Gowin and represents a more liberal economic wing, and is also represented within the government by Minister Emilewicz, gained in importance after the election. Without their support, PiS would lose its majority in the Polish parliament. For an example of how these changes affect the government’s economic policy, look at what happened to the idea to remove the 30-times average wage ceiling for social security contributions, which would have increased the tax wedge for Poles on the highest incomes. Prior to the election, the government had promised a balanced budget in 2020, with one of the measures to achieve this being the removal of this ceiling. After the election, however, Porozumienie started to say: ‘We are against putting this into law, we don’t want it.’ And so the government had to withdraw from parliament the draft of the bill which removed this ceiling.”
To speculate a little bit, money will be needed to balance the budget – where will it come from? “The government planned to make some changes in the pension system, and they want to transfer money from private pension funds, which they control, to new private accounts which will be totally outside their control.” We are just at the beginning of the next 4-year term of office of this government and we can already see how power is shifting a little. Do you expect more discussions like this and leaning more towards the liberal wing? “We are experiencing a global economic slowdown. We don’t know how hard Poland will be affected by it, but factors such as the slowdown in Germany, Brexit and the trade war between US and China are all in play and are downside risk factors for GDP forecasts for 2020 and 2021. In this environment, the government has already introduced a wider and more substantial number of social benefits, like extending the 500+ programme and introducing the 13th pension. In such an environment, the government needs to stimulate the economy and support private companies so they can remain as resilient to the global slowdown as possible. I would expect that next year, after the presidential election, the government will focus fully on helping companies, especially Polish-owned ones, to remain as resilient as possible to this global slowdown. I would therefore expect government policy to turn in a more liberal market-oriented direction – but only after the presidential election.” Are there any companies in particular that you think the government will focus on? “Definitely, one of the main things that the government stressed in its last term was research and development. They want private companies to engage in research development activities, both Polish-owned and foreign-owned companies operating in Poland, so I would expect more programmes that support research and development investments and activities.”
an impact on economic policy” Are there any special regions that you think will stand out? The eastern region maybe, which is poorer? “I wouldn’t expect that. An interesting thing we discussed here at the Polityka Insight office was connected with the Pomorskie voivodeship. We expect that this will become the ‘new Śląsk’ region. The mining sector is in decline. Just how quickly it will vanish in Poland we don’t know, but due to climate change we need to hold down the level of coal mining and coal-based electricity production, and at the same time we need to invest quite a lot in new forms of energy. This kind of energy generation is concentrated in the north.” Yes, for example offshore wind energy? “Offshore wind energy, hydropower, solar energy – these are located mostly in the north. What’s more, the Pomorskie voivodeship is becoming a new logistics hub. It wasn’t exactly a sparkling region for many years but now, due to the expansion of the ports at Gdańsk and Gdynia, it has become even more important for global logistics and we can see a very business-friendly environment. So I would expect that the north of Poland will receive more investment incentives. The second region is central Poland, with one of the planned activities there being the new Polish airport. So the central and northern regions of Poland are the areas that will develop a little bit quicker than the rest of the country, but the difference won’t be big. Poland is quite homogenous as a country.” How do you see the issue of Ukrainian workers and the government’s approach to this topic?
Germany is opening its borders for Ukrainians too, and some of the Ukrainians in Poland are considering leaving and going further to the West. Personally, I don’t believe that many of the Ukrainians here will leave, because Poland is quite close culturally and also geographically to Ukraine, and the languages are similar so Ukrainians don’t actually have to learn Polish to communicate with Polish people. But they would need to learn German to be able to find a good job in Germany. This will discourage a lot of Ukrainians from moving further to the West, despite the higher wages. But if we look further into the future – we can expect that more Ukrainians will start moving to Germany. They will form small communities, which will eventually also attract other Ukrainians to come, but this won’t happen in January 2020. This will only take place in the next few years, but I would still expect the total number of Ukrainians in Poland to remain at more or less the same level as in 2019. We will have a small outflow to Western countries, but at the same time we will continue to have a small inflow, which will keep numbers stable. At the same time, Polish society is ageing and we will lose around 4-5m people of working age in the next couple of decades, so therefore we will need more economic migrants to converge economically with the West. However, the Polish government is not helping with its ‘Please, let’s not talk about migration’ policy. Since they are against immigration and refugees from the south, they cannot talk freely about opening up our eastern border to immigrants.
“In Poland, we have between 1.5 and 1.7 million Ukrainians active in the labour market. This is a substantial number of people.
The typical Pole from the countryside does not see any difference between economic migrants and refugees; they don’t want any migration at all. So what the government is doing, and I assume will be doing in the future, is to make small amendments to various laws.
They also help to keep wage growth at a single-digit level, because if it weren’t for the Ukrainian workers in Poland, we would see double-digit growth. That’s because they came here without such high wage demands as Polish workers. Now,
There won’t be a big migration policy on the table, but there will be small amendments, such as easing the conditions that foreign doctors need to meet in order to get a permit to work in Polish hospitals.”
We have many companies from the Netherlands that want to support Poland with innovative solutions, and I think that Poland needs innovations to keep growing. Is the Polish government doing enough to promote innovation?
innovate. And that will be one of the priorities on the government’s agenda for its next term of office. So the answer is yes, although the problem is that private companies, especially small and mediumsized ones, do not see the need to innovate that much.
“The government is trying to help. The policies that are aimed at increasing innovation do not conflict with the policies about social benefits or the plans of multinational companies.
Until they see that ‘we need to innovate, otherwise we will lose our market share’, they won’t innovate so much. The most likely factor that will push companies to innovate will be labour shortages.
The liberal wing of the ruling coalition, which we discussed before, can make further amendments to the law that will encourage companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, to
I think that there will be a lot of innovation in the field of automation – from consumer services through retail trade to B2C services.”
PF CO N CE P T.CO M issueWWW. 69 Bulletin
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Column Staf Beems Entrepreneur and owner of Silesia Consulting
IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU Over the last few weeks I have twice been to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam to meet foreign business partners. As I always like to be on time, I usually have to spend some time in the arrivals hall and what I like doing at airports is watching people as they arrive and the people waiting for them. In the departures hall, meanwhile, you can see people leaving, alone in most cases but sometimes also surrounded by their family and friends. In both halls, I always wonder what is, or was, their destination. On the first occasion that I had to wait, I sat down at one of the tables in a small pub opposite the exit of hall 1. Next to me at another round table was a lady – slightly younger than me – who was also waiting. She had her coffee and I had my newspaper. For some reason, either I started to talk to her or she started to converse with me. I don’t remember exactly. She told me that she was waiting for her husband who was returning from a business trip to Helsinki. She was a retired school teacher and her children were all grown up, she told me. She always used to welcome her husband home; she lived close to the airport so why not? I told her that I was living, working and travelling between Poland and Holland. She wanted to know what it was like to live in Poland and we had a pleasant and interesting chat talking about one thing and another. It was like talking to your neighbour in a Dutch pub, when you can discuss politics, business or whatever, and then you go home and you have no clue who you met and whether what they told you is really true. I checked the arrival status of our flights and hers was delayed and mine was on time, so it was clear that my friend would arrive first. And that’s what happened – he landed, we headed off to our meetings somewhere in Holland, and I wished her a pleasant day. Two weeks later, I was at the same airport waiting for my Bulgarian friend and again I was waiting for him at the same place – with my tea and newspaper. And to my great surprise, that lady was sitting at the same table as the first time. Naturally, I was surprised to see her again and my immediate reaction was – hello, you’re waiting again for your husband so where’s he been this time? Helsinki, she answered me. What a coincidence to meet again, I said.
She agreed, but in a completely different way to the first time. As if she’d been caught out. I thought it was better not to ask for more details and I tried to continue reading my newspaper. But then what happened? She came closer to me and asked – do you have time to listen to me? Yes, I answered. Why not? What she told me was a big shock for me. She said that for three months she had been going every morning to the airport, though not at weekends as her husband never travelled at the weekend. Always the same time, same location – but her husband never arrived. He had died of a heart attack three months ago. She had always come to the airport to meet him and they used to go home together. But since he had passed away, her life was not her life anymore. She whispered to me: sometimes I hope, dream and imagine that he will suddenly appear in the doorway. Yes, I have children. Yes, I have grandchildren. Yes, I have family and, yes, I have friends but I don’t have him anymore. And yes, I cannot live without him, yes, I know he will not show up anymore and, yes, we were happily married for more than forty years. I have some experience in life – during my time as a diplomat I visited Dutch nationals in prison, hospital and at home. I had to help people abroad in sometimes very difficult and hopeless situations where, for example, they had lost their husband, wife or child. In my second life as the manager of the ANWB Emergency Centre I was used to accidents – we had no other product – where people had accidents, died, drowned, disappeared or even got divorced on holiday. In other words, I am not so easily surprised anymore but what she told me was completely new and even with all my experience I was flabbergasted. I asked her whether she had the support of her children, family and/or friends. She said she had, but they told her that she shouldn’t show off so much. That’s life, they told her. Here at the airport, she told me, every day she can think about him, about the good old days and she can „enjoy” watching the happy, busy, nervous people as they arrive, how they are welcomed and meet their family, partners, friends, drivers, business partners, or grandchildren. It’s the way she tries to deal with her grief and solitude, she said. And the fact that there will be no more arrivals at the airport, no more Santa Claus, no more Christmases or New Years with him. When I had to say farewell to her, my friend having arrived in the meantime, I felt lost. This Christmas, I will think of her and all the others who are in one way or another in the same situation. Do it with me, and think of those people who are in similar circumstances. Try to understand and maybe even help them, and realise that we are in such a privileged situation because it didn’t happen to us. Cherish every day, every moment. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
This column is written à titre personnel and does not necessarily reflect the views of the NPCC board or its members.
Electromobility in Poland is gaining momentum Although the level of sales of electric vehicles (EV) in Poland is rising month by month, their market share remains at a relatively low level. Despite the wide range of models on offer, the high prices of zero-emission vehicles continue to be a barrier for potential buyers. The Polish electromobility market has got significant potential, but no real breakthrough is foreseen until the Low-Emission Transport Fund subsidies have been launched. Data from the Electromobility Index, which is operated by the Polish Alternative Fuels Association (PSPA) and the Polish Automotive Industry Association (PZPM), shows that at the end of August 2019 there were 6,672 electric passenger cars in Poland. Between January and August 2019, a total of 2,416 fully electric cars and plug-in hybrids were registered in Poland, which is 89% higher than in the corresponding period last year. Despite the increase in sales, the share of EVs in the new car market in Poland stands at a mere 0.2%. At the same time, the EV charging infrastructure is becoming more widespread. According to the Electromobility Index, at the end of August 2019 Poland had 888 EV public charging stations with 1,611 charging points. 30% of them are fast DC charges, and 70% are slow AC chargers with a power equal to or below 22 kW. The Polish market does have a relatively wide range of electric vehicles on offer. Buyers can choose zero-emission models in virtually all the most popular segments: from urban cars to light commercial vehicles. The PSPA’s „Electric Vehicles Catalogue 2019/2020” shows that at the beginning of September 2019, customers had about 80 models of all-electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids to choose from (this number includes different body versions). Car sharing companies are playing a significant role in boosting the presence of electric vehicles on Polish roads. Just as an example, Vozilla in Wrocław operates a fleet of 200 zero-emission Nissan and Renault vehicles, while Innogy, the energy concern, has launched one of the largest systems of electric shared mobility services in Europe, providing its customers in Warsaw with 500 electric BMWs. Alongside the car sharing systems, public institutions are also exerting a major impact on the increase of electromobility in Poland. The Act on Electromobility and Alternative Fuels, which came into force on 22 February 2018, imposes certain obligations on central public administration, government agencies, and local government entities with regard to the development of low- and zero-emission fleets. As a result, the first tenders by public entities for the supply of electric cars have been carried out, one example of which is Krakowski Holding Komunalny S.A. (a Kraków municipal utilities holding), which ordered 47 zero-emission Hyundai vehicles (the Kona Electric model). An increasingly popular form of acquiring EVs in Poland is on longterm leasing. Hitachi Capital Polska is an example of this type of
leasing company, which, for example, has a Tesla in its portfolio of electric utility vehicles and passenger cars. Long-term lease facilities are being used by entities such as Krakowski Holding Komunalny S.A. or Poczta Polska S.A. (Polish Post), which has acquired 20 Nissan e-NV200 vans. Hitachi Capital Polska is a market leader in EV mobility, and Hitachi Capital Corporation recently bought the company Mobility Mixx in the Netherlands to be a frontrunner in MaaS. Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) is designed to cover the areas where most commuting trips take place, with public transport forming the backbone of the sustainable mobility system. MaaS brings together all forms of transport into a single intuitive smartphone app, combining transport options from different transport providers and handling everything from travel planning to payments. Mobility Mixx seamlessly integrates and aggregates mobility services via a smartphone or smartcard and a modern API-enabled supply chain. This kind of solution will be the main driver supporting Hitachi Capital Polska in its other areas of expansion. Individual customers, both entrepreneurs and non-business customers, are likely to start buying more electric vehicles after the system of financial support has been launched. At present, zeroemission vehicles are expensive in comparison to their conventional counterparts, which continues to hamper the spread of EVs. In order to stimulate the market in the first phase of electromobility development, the government has set up the Low-Emission Transport Fund. The Regulation of the Minister of Energy, which sets out the detailed conditions for the granting of support under the fund, says that entrepreneurs can obtain a subsidy (or a loan) of up to PLN 36,000 to purchase a fully-electric passenger M1 category car costing up to PLN 125,000 net, up to PLN 70,000 to purchase an M2 or N1 category car, up to PLN 150,000 to purchase an N2 category car, and even as much as PLN 200,000 to purchase an N3 category car. Such a level of support may be a decisive factor for many companies when they decide about replacing their fleets. Since the subsidies from the Low-Emission Transport Fund constitute a form of state aid, the scheme requires a notification by[SC1] the European Commission. And until this support mechanism becomes operational, the market is likely to remain dormant as many potential buyers will be guided by the economic calculation and they will therefore refrain from purchasing an EV at this stage.
NPCC Test Drive
Range Rover Velar: Not cheap, but it should be at the top of your list
On the screen below, you can control functions such as the terrain response system, while the screen in the instrument panel contains the standard two dials showing your speed and revs, but this can easily be configured to give you a map over the full width of the screen. The rear of the car has more than enough room for two passengers. The Velar can also carry quite a lot of luggage, even more when you put the back seat down. This is pretty standard for an SUV of this size but it’s a lot more than you get from SUV coupés with a sloped roof. For a car this stylish, it has a lot of practicality in the back.
We recently took the Range Rover Velar to test for a weekend. The first thing we asked was: the Range Rover what? Another Land Rover again? Because they really do have a lot of models. There is the Range Rover Vogue, the Range Rover Velar, the regular Range Rover Sport, and then the full-sized regular Range Rover. There is also the Land Rover Discovery and then the Land Rover Discovery Sport, which are two different vehicles. But the Velar is the coolest one of them all. Actually, it is one of the most beautiful Land Rover models ever made. It is designed to slide in between the smaller Vogue and the more practical Range Rover Sport in the Land Rover range, and it seems to be intended to rival SUV coupés like the BMW X6 and Mercedes Benz GLE Coupé.
Land Rover fans are rather sceptical about all these new models that have been coming out. “Do we really need another one?” they seem to think. But that thought quickly melts away when you get behind the wheel and we were very impressed by the drive quality. The steering is a bit on the vague side, but the handling was very good and the car was great fun to drive. All models have air suspension and it’s also very nice to drive, of course, as it has the high driving position that Range Rovers are known for. Handling is on a par with the sporty SUVs from Maserati and the Porsche Cayenne.
Let’s start with the exterior, and particularly the headlights, where the Velar takes the LED game to a whole new level. In most cars, when you turn on the indicators, the entire LED headlight turns off. In the Velar, however, only a small part turns off so the car keeps its cool look from the front. The car also has auto high beam assist, which automatically dips the high beam headlight for oncoming traffic. This was ideal for our trip through the smaller roads of eastern Poland. Inside, it all has a premium quality feel. The Velar has got a greatlooking leather finish, which is continued on the steering wheel and the doors. The screens are also quite spectacular, with one of the coolest screen set-ups in the entire car industry. There is one screen in the instrument panel, one in the middle of the car and another below the middle, which takes the place of your usual centre buttons. The top screen is used to control most of the normal functions, such as Bluetooth, and that’s where you also have your media, sat nav and camera.
The Velar also has some other features worth mentioning: the door handles remain flush with the car until you get in; the top model has a total of 23 speakers inside, with each door alone having three, so you can imagine the epic sound quality; and the reversing camera has its own built-in jet wash to help keep it clean. So, our advice is that if you are looking for an SUV, and if you have a big enough budget, then go and have a look at the Velar or one of the other models from the Land Rover range. They are definitely worth a look.
The Netherlands Polish Chamber of Commerce was invited to test this car by Planet Car Lease
Column Remco van der Kroft Advocaat (Dutch licensed lawyer) and partner of Olczak-Klimek Van der Kroft Węgiełek
November reflections The first weekend of November is behind us. The All Saints weekend is always one of the most deadly weekends of the year, though this year was not as bad as some with only 25 dead and 364 hurt. Why it is that every year hundreds of people have to die so that Poles can drive as fast as they like? This question has haunted me for years but I have yet to find an answer. Politicians could simply put a stop to this by raising the fines for speeding and putting radars everywhere and not just in those spots where there will be a return on investment (in money terms, not in lives saved). They must be afraid to lose votes if they do so. Speaking of votes, the parliamentary elections were a great success in terms of the turnout, showing that democracy is still alive in Poland. The turnout abroad was especially impressive. In The Hague, for example, the line to vote was more than 2 hours long. The governing coalition won, as was to be expected, but they did not win by as much as they had hoped. It was strange to watch Jarosław Kaczyński clearly looking unhappy whilst announcing the election victory. The reason for his mood became clear in the days immediately following the election. The PiS-led coalition had not got a majority in the Senate, PiS’s coalition partners, the parties led by Minister Ziobro and Minister Gowin, had done better than PiS itself, and there was the general disappointment that the 500+ programme had not brought PiS the parliamentary majority they had been dreaming of. When PiS filed 6 election protests, I thought we would find out exactly why they had appointed their own judges to the Supreme Court to decide on the validity of elections. Miraculously, these protests were all rejected as baseless. I guess we will never know whether these judges actually showed independence or whether it was just a show to prove to the rest of the world that there is nothing wrong with the reformed justice
system in Poland. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in the meantime that the judicial reforms introduced in 2017 violated European law. These reforms had introduced different retirement ages for male and female judges and forced sitting judges to retire, with the justice minister assuming the power to decide who could stay and who could not. During the debates on that law, the main purpose of which was to remove Professor Gersdorf as First President of the Supreme Court (aged 65 at the time), PiS MP Krystyna Pawłowicz argued that people over 65 should be working in the garden and not working as judges. It looks like she has fully respected the ECJ ruling and seen the error of her ways as at the age of 67 she is a candidate for a 9-year tenure on the Constitutional Tribunal, together with her contemporary Stanisław Piotrowicz. The candidature of the latter is not so certain anymore, however, as the public outcry against a former martial law prosecutor being appointed to the Constitutional Court was bigger than expected – maybe his refusal to prosecute a paedophile priest who had abused several young girls also contributed to the public’s anger? Or maybe his candidature was a lightning rod to allow Krystyna Pawłowicz to join the Constitutional Court without too much opposition or am I becoming too much of a conspiracy theory buff? The replacement of Poland’s elite also continues elsewhere at a speed which causes the odd mishap. The president of the Polish Supreme Audit Office turned out to be the owner of a brothel who failed to notice a massive VAT fraud right under his nose in the Ministry of Finance, while the person responsible for the construction of a new NATO base turned out to be a Russian spy. There is enough happening for an interesting presidential election next spring, if only the opposition can get its act together to find a credible candidate to stand against the incumbent president.
This column is written à titre personnel and does not necessarily reflect the views of the NPCC board or its members.