Warsaw aims to make Poland one of the world's 20 most prosperous states by 2022. In the meantime, the country's GDP is expected to rise to 80% of the EU average, from 67% at present. The 82.5 billion obtained by Poland in cohesion policy funding for the years 2014-2020, making the country the leading beneficiary of the EU budget, will contribute in large measure towards achieving that goal.
On 8 January, the Polish government presented its cohesion support spending programme, the central thread of which is the 'Europe 2020' strategy. It hopes to complete negotiation of the plan's arrangements with the European Commission before the summer holidays.
EU funds have brought nearly one point of additional growth to the Polish economy every year since the country joined the Union. Infrastructure and Development Minister Elzbieta Bienkowska nevertheless denies any dependence on the EU. "It would be unreasonable to determine our development projects solely in terms of European funding," she said. "They are defined as part of a broader strategy and European funds are seen as an instrument to achieve these objectives." For Prime Minister Donald Tusk, the best indicator of the next "leap of civilisation" will be the reduction of poverty. He hopes that another 1.5 million citizens will move into the country's middle class, bringing the poverty level below the EU average.
Companies as main beneficiaries
The partnership contract presented by the government is made up of six national and 16 regional programmes. Bienkowska announced straight away that companies will be the primary fund beneficiaries, as they will be able to tap transversally into all the proposed programmes. The top priority will be research and development (R&D), the Achilles' heel of the Polish economy for now. The goal is to reach the European average of 2% of GDP invested in R&D (0.6% at present), half of which will have to come from the private sector. With a budget of 8.6 billion, the 'Smart development' programme is "the most ambitious and most different from what has been done in the past," said the minister. It will aim to build synergy between companies and universities on the initiative of the private sector. From now on, 90% of funding for universities will be allocated through companies interested in their R&D programmes and prospects for marketing research results. "I am convinced that, by time this programme winds up, a 'Polish trademark' will emerge and will add...