POLAND OFFERS WIDE RANGE OF INVESTMENT INCENTIVES - AMBASSADOR PIOTR OPALINSKI

Founder Editor Tazeen Akhtar..

Interview By Tazeen Akhtar Editor 

Poland is an important country of Europe that has a very rich and proud history. Warsaw is a world known Capital for many respects and aspects. Pakistan was lucky to have Polish cooperation in establishing a strong state defense just after the independence when our country needed it badly. There are many things that prove both countries solid relations with mutual benefits. Our warm friendship expands over decades. Pakistan in the World always brings forth friends of Pakistan for our readers to know and respect them. This month, we have the honor to interview H.E Mr. Piotr Opalinski, Ambassador of Poland. Here are questions and answers for the interest and information of the reader.

1-How Poland sees (considers) relations with Pakistan?

Piotr Opaliński -Poland and Pakistan have a long history of friendly contacts and cooperation dating back to the foundation years of your country, when in 1948, Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan sanctioned an agreement with exiled members of the Polish Air Force to build the Pakistan Air Force.

Nowadays we enjoy very good, multifaceted relations between our two countries, yet my main objective in here is to make them even better by invigorating the dialogue on highest political levels with Government and Parliament of Pakistan and by enhancing the mutually beneficial economic cooperation.

2- Excellency you had served your country as a diplomat in Islamabad in the past. Now you are Ambassador. What difference do you see between Pakistan of that time and this time?

Piotr Opaliński -Well, it’s with real pleasure to me to be back in Pakistan after ten years and it is my great privilege and honour to serve as Ambassador of Poland to your great country now. My first tenure a decade ago as a deputy head of the mission lasted long six years, so now I feel at home and back home in Islamabad.

What hasn’t change here is a very warm and friendly relations with all Pakistanis in general and a very open and cooperative attitude from all partners both in government, intellectual and cultural society and business community of Pakistan. And also the beauty and greenery of Islamabad hasn’t change – with Margalla adding a special touch to its artistic landscape.

The difference between then and now is evident when we just look around us – lots of progress and development, construction sitesand the nearby Islamabad – Rawalpindi Metro bus, which wasn’t there ten years ago, and even more development which is planned, especially the ambitious project of economic corridor. And most importantly, Pakistan is now back on the track of democratic development, implementing economic, social and political reforms which lead the country to the prosperous future.

3-What is the latest volume of the trade between the two countries? How do you see more avenues of enhancing economic cooperation?

Piotr Opaliński -The trade exchange is growing, in last two years being on a level of more than 300 million Euro. The imports from Pakistan to Poland are significantly bigger than Polish exports to Pakistan. We’re working on further enhancement of investment by Polish companies in energy sector in Pakistan. In addition to those companies, that are already engaged in the exploration of oil and gas resources, we’d like to share our vast experience and modern technologies in the coal mining. Keeping in mind the importance of improving this sector for the whole Pakistani economy I believe that it is of our mutual interest. There is also a good scope for cooperation in agriculture and food processing industry and last but not least, in defense production sector. Poland may offer to Pakistan the modern equipment of a very good quality, and still at a reasonable price.

4-How much attractive are policies of your country for Pakistani businessmen community?

Piotr Opaliński -I do agree with what Minister of Commerce, Mr Khurram Dastgir Khan said during his visit in my country:Poland is a gateway to Central and Eastern Europe and it is a market with huge potential, not yet explored sufficiently by Pakistani business. Establishing a company on a Polish market means an easy access to the rest of European markets, as our country is a part of European Union and Schengen zone.

Many world class companies often choose Poland as a preferred investment destination in Europe. According to up-to-date rankings, Poland is the best CEE country for business. We can boast as being chosen one of the best quality locations for manufacturing projects, also due to the stable and sound macroeconomic situation of Poland. Among our strengths there is the availability of well qualified and productive employees, business friendly climate and transparent tax and legal systems.

Poland offers a wide range of investment incentives. Investors are invited to locate their projects in 14 Special Economic Zones i.e. special zones where economic activity may be run in favorable conditions. Polish SEZs offer attractive tax exemptions, employment incentives and well-prepared investment lots. Some new investors have already benefited from the Program for Supporting Investments of Major Importance to the Polish Economy for 2011-2020. Support is provided to entrepreneurs investing in the following priority industries: automotive, electronics, aviation, biotechnology, modern services, R&D and food processing, and also to those planning significant investments in other industries. It’s up to Pakistani entrepreneurs to decide for where to put their money, but I strongly believe that investing in Poland is worth considering.

5-Tourism is a big sector for developing cooperation and people to people contacts. What are the attractions for Pakistani tourist in your country? Sites, Facilities, Rates, Visa Regime etc.

Piotr Opaliński -Poland is a part of the global tourism market with constantly increasing number of visitors, being a stable democracy with a truly fascinating history, great cultural heritage, vibrant culture and outstanding natural beauty. Visitors may enjoy every kind of landscape: beautiful coastal beaches and sand dunes, glacier-carved lake districts, lowlands as flat as a pancake, splendid forests, old and new mountains, extraordinary historical sites, picturesque cities and countryside. Among the top tourist attractions there are ancient capital city of Krakow with Wawel Castle and the nearby Wieliczka Salt Mine, which features an underground city, all carved out of the rock salt, including a chapel that is said to have the best acoustics of any structure in Europe. Foreign tourists love to visit also the Market Square in the Old Town in Krakow, surrounded by historical townhouses, palaces and churches. But one shouldn't miss the birthplace of Solidarity Movement - the port city of Gdansk, which has a uniquely beautiful Old Town, or the capital city of Warsaw, destroyed in World War II but carefully rebuilt, and the list goes on and on.

Regarding visas, the detailed information is available on internet: http://www.msz.gov.pl/en/travel_to_poland/visa/visa and the online application is required, in the same way as in any other country of the Schengen Agreement. The unified Schengen visa entitles the visitor to stay in the territory of all Schengen states, so more than one country may be visited in one tour.

6-Pakistani students are studying abroad in a large number. What is the status regarding Poland. How many students are in your country and do you offer incentives in this sector?

Piotr Opaliński -Poland plays an active part in the Bologna process: we’ve introduced three stage education model (Bachelors’/Masters’/Doctors’) and the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS). Due to this reform Polish students and foreigners studying in Poland may easily continue their education elsewhere in the European Union, within the Erasmus Program. Thanks to that almost 30,000 foreign students have come to study in Poland.

A range of well-established universities offer Bachelors’ and Masters’ degrees as well as research/PhD taught in English covering almost all fields of interest.

To name just a few universities – Jagiellonian University, University of Warsaw, University of Silesia, University of Wroclaw, Bialystok University of Technology, AGH University of Science and Technology, University of Lublin –are all good choice to make.

An average international student will need to pay 2,500 to 3,500 Euros per year as tuition fee for an undergraduate or postgraduate degree, depending on the course and the university. Living expenses range between 2,500 to 4,000 Euros depending on the type of chosen accommodation.

7-Polish company PGNiG is working in Kirthar with PPL for petroleum exploration. What is the latest production of wells in this field? What are more possibilities of mutual cooperation in this regard?

Piotr Opaliński -In November last year the biggest Polish company in Pakistan, PGNiG (Polish Oil and Gas Company), inaugurated the new RehmanGas Processing Facility located in Kirthar concession, where our company is operating since 2005 in cooperation with PPL. As a result of this new investment 4 times increase in gas production from the Kirthar is expected– from existing 10MMcf/d to 40MMcf/d (800 m3/min). Such success also prompted the Polish Company to expand significantly its activity outside of Kirthar license and search for other concession areas on the Pakistan market. As a result it shall contribute to the development of energy sector in Pakistan, which is a crucial factor for country’s economic growth.

8-Poland was represented by Your Excellency in Heart of Asia Conference (Istanbul Process). What role Poland is playing in bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan?

Piotr Opaliński -Poland fully supports the Heart of Asia initiative. We believe that the development of regional cooperation is the best way to tackle problems of trans-border nature - terrorism, drug trafficking or natural disasters. Building trust is of utmost importance for this to succeed. So is economic integration of the region.

We supported the Islamabad Declaration. We found it ambitious but at the same time manageable. It promotes economic connectivity and confidence building measures, but also puts emphasis on countering security threats, which is of key importance for Afghanistan. We are convinced that in order for the economy to grow, peace must be achieved first.

Poland has been supporting Afghanistan since the very beginning of the NATO mission. We provided one of the biggest contingents of troops for ISAF and now we participate in the Resolute Support Mission. The issue of NATO support for Afghanistan beyond 2016 will be one of the priority topics at the next NATO summit which will be held in Warsaw in July 2016.

Poland will remain committed to supporting Afghanistan with development aid. Since 2008 we have provided PLN 115 million of bilateral and multilateral assistance to Afghanistan. Afghanistan will remain a beneficiary of Polish Development Cooperation Programme. We will be providing funds mainly through multilateral channels that is through Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF administered by World Bank) and Law and Order Trust Fund (LOTFA administered by UNDP).

9-Polish pilots, after the end of World War II, had contributed to Pakistani military and civil aviation. What are details of this contribution? Very less number of Pakistanis knows about this?

Piotr Opaliński -The history of Polish pilots, of whom we are very proud, is an example of brotherly relations between Poland and Pakistan. In 1948, about thirty officers of the Polish Air Force which during the World War II contributed largely to the defeat of Nazi Luftwaffe forces that had been trying to invade the Great Britain were commissioned to build the Pakistan Air Force. Their commander, Air Commodore Władysław Turowicz, had initially supervised technical training of Pakistani pilots and later became Deputy Chief of Air Staff. Polish officers set up technical institutes, notably the Air Force Institute of Aviation Technology in Karachi. As the chief scientist of the Pakistan Air Force Academy Air Commodore W. Turowicz revitalized the school and taught Pakistani students.

Polish pilots played an active part in the Air Force operations, helping defend Pakistani skies. The Government bestowed the Sitara-e-Pakistan on Air CommodoreW. Turowicz, Major Antoni Jedryszek and others. Some of the pilots also received honorary Pakistani citizenship. They remained vital figures in Pakistan for three decades and in 1967 MrW. Turowicz became the technical director of Pakistan’s SUPARCO program.

We should do our best to popularize this memorable chapter of our common history.There is a documentary film captioned “The Polish Eaglets over Pakistan”, made by Mrs Anna Pietraszek, Polish journalist and friend of Pakistan, and most recently, a very valuable documentary book has been prepared for publication by the same author, on this particular subject. The book is based on documents and photographs generously provided by PAF Museum and archives.

10-Nato Summit Warsaw in July this year is no doubt a big deal for your country. What are your expectations about this magnificent event? How your country is looking into this gathering of European Leadership? What are the main challenges for Europe in your opinion?

Piotr Opaliński -NATO Summit in Warsaw in July 2016 will welcome the heads of state from about 65 countries, leaders of the most crucial partner organisations of the Alliance such as the UN and the EU, ‎as well as 2500 delegates and 1500 journalists. Their reason for attending the summit is so that the transatlantic community, the Alliance and its partners can more effectively fight against threats to their security. The area of instability and war close to the Alliance's borders is approaching fast. In addition to conflicts in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, Europe is now confronted with mass immigration problem. The NATO Summit in Warsaw will tackle these challenges.

11-International Orgs like World Bank and IMF are terming Pakistan's economy as going on right track. How do you see the policies and achievements of Pakistan?

Piotr Opaliński -Yes, I agree with the World Banks’ and IMF’s assessment that Pakistan’s economy has been on right track, although the decline in direct foreign investment and exports might be a reason of concern for the Pakistani authorities and I’m sure that the government is conscious of this issue. As a friend of Pakistan, Poland is also playing its constructive role in providing the GSP+ facility by the EU, which is helping Pakistan to increase its exports. The European Union is probably the only destination to which Pakistan exports are on the rise during last seven months of the current financial year.

12-Pakistan is a target of terrorism since long. Your Excellency has spent much time here and observed a lot. Pakistan is trying her best to end this menace. What is your take on this?

Piotr Opaliński -Since the start of Zarb-e-Azb operation in Pakistan’s tribal areas and intelligence-based operations in urban areas, the security situation has improved a lot and the Pakistanis’ sacrifices are now paying dividends. The top political and military leaders are on the same page about existential threat to Pakistan, that is extremism, which needs to be resolved by the continued and united efforts by all stakeholders. The durable peace in the region is also linked with peace and stability in Afghanistan. The positive role of Pakistan in resumption of Afghan peace process is of utmost importance.

13-What is policy of Poland on Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India?

Piotr Opaliński -As a member of the European Union Poland does support the shared EU position on the need of a peaceful resolution of Kashmir dispute.The EU and its member states observe the situation in Kashmir very closely, and – as evident from the consecutive resolutions passed by the European Parliament – they appeal to the parties involved to come to a negotiated political settlement of the issue.

14-Many important countries of the world are demanding extension/ reforms in UN Security Council. They say that monopoly of a few countries must come to end. How Poland looks into it?

Piotr Opaliński -The collapse of the bipolar system entailed the need to adapt the UN to meet the requirements of the new international environment. The way we perceive human rights and socio-economic issues changed at the turn of the 21st century. The concept of security evolved significantly.

Poland is actively involved in the discussion on UN reform, representing the position that all changes must serve to boost the organization’s efficiency, foster the democratization of international relations, and ensure greater human rights protection.

Despite the broadly supported conviction within the UN as to the necessity of Security Council reform, this matter leads to stark divisions on the international forum. The principal divergences concern the issue whether to increase the number of permanent members or limit SC enlargement in regard to non-permanent members. Divisions also arise when it comes to possible limitations to veto powers. The least controversial elements of reform is the streamlining of Council working methods, aimed primarily at increasing transparency of action.

Poland is of the opinion that the aim of Security Council reform should be the establishment of more effective Council working methods. It is necessary to account for geographical balance when selecting members, including by creating an additional seat for members from Central-Eastern Europe. We support further discussion on the perspective of creating a joint UNSC seat for the EU.

15-What message would you like to give for Pakistanis?

Piotr Opaliński -Pakistan is a country where half of the population are children and youth. This youth will basically shape the future of Pakistan and it will be their effort and responsibility to use the country abundant resources well. What is necessary to succeed in this matter is the good education. The role of the state is to provide this education, but youth shall also demand it, seek for it, and never stop learning. I’m sure that the youth itself is one of the Pakistan greatest resources.

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Poland

Poland is an eastern European country on the Baltic Sea known for its medieval architecture, heritage and hearty cuisine. In the city of Krakow, 14th-century Wawel Castle rises above the medieval Old Town, home to Cloth Hall, a Renaissance trading post in Rynek Glówny (market square). Nearby is the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp memorial, and Wieliczka Salt Mine, with tunnels to explore.

CapitalWarsaw

Dialing code: +48

ISO code: POL

Currency: Polish złoty

Official language: Polish

Neighboring countriesRussiaCzech RepublicUkraineGermanyLithuania,BelarusSlovakia

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Piotr Opaliński

Ambassador of Poland

HE Mr Piotr Opaliński has been fascinated by the Orient, its culture, history, and present-day for over forty years. He has spent a quarter of a century in Central and Southern Asia – from attending university to experiencing the charm and challenges of everyday life.

After completing his M.A. in Oriental philology at Tashkent State University, he gained experience in diplomacy and public administration in Warsaw, at the Polish Institute of Foreign Affairs and the National School of Public Administration, and in the Hague at the Clingendael Institute of International Relations.

Mr. Opaliński went through each level of diplomatic service from expert to ambassador ad personam, working in the departments of Asia, Africa and the Middle East at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He served as the chargé d'affaires in Bangladesh (1991-1997), in Angola and Tanzania (2007), as the consul and deputy head of mission in Pakistan and Afghanistan (1999-2005), and as the deputy head of mission in India (2008-2014).

He was awarded the Golden Cross of Merit for his achievements in diplomatic service and contribution to the development of relations between Poland and countries in South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

His goals as the Polish ambassador to Pakistan include promoting cooperation between both countries in all areas – the economy, trade, politics, culture, and education.

In his spare time Mr. Opaliński enjoys listening to fusion music, in which the East combines with the West, and reading Urdu poetry by the likes of Mirza Ghalib, Mir Taqi Mir and Allama Muhammad Iqbal. He is an avid photographer and an amateur tennis player.

He speaks English, Russian, Hindi, and Urdu. 

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Pictures - Shahid Raju