Interview with Krzysztof Kozłowski, deputy minister of maritime economy and inland navigation in Poland.
– At what stage are the arrangements with the European Commission on the Act on activation of the shipbuilding industry?
– The shipyard act has been prepared in accordance with the best practices, which result from EU law, and meets all the highest standards of the law. Indeed, a certain segment of this act must be notified. The European Commission wants to know the details of the exemption of the yard from VAT, the choice between CIT and lump-sum 1 percent tax on the value of the sold production. European Commission asked to prepare a financial simulation, to show how these regulations will affect the market. For the European Commission – that is my belief – no other regulations spelled out in the Act do not raise doubts.
– Who prepares the financial simulations and what do they relate to?
– Ministry of Maritime Economy, Ministry of Finance and the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection prepare an analysis of the impact of the introduction of these tax solutions for end users. The idea is to show that the introduction of the mechanism to choose the form of taxation will not affect the parallel market, or other purchasers of shipyard products, as well as the other shipbuilding companies throughout the European Union.
– So when can we expect the EC decision on the notification of the Act?
– I hope that the Commission will issue a decision by the end of September, and that it will be positive. The lack of acceptance by the Commission, in our opinion, will be dictated by political rather than substantive considerations.
– And what happens if the EC opinion is negative?
– I cannot imagine such a situation. A possible EC decision, questioning the shipyard act, we will firmly combat through legal means available, also in the form of a complaint to the Court of Justice of the EU. Here, our actions would be extremely assertive. I am convinced, however, that such instruments will not have to be reached for, and we will explain any possible doubts with the Commission in the spirit of partnership and good cooperation.
– Won’t the European Commission have any objections to that fact, on the one hand we begin the process of notification of the Act, and on the other hand, legislative work is being carried out in this field?
– There will not be a problem, because European law does not prohibit such a parallel model of proceeding. Our action at the level of national law is in full compliance with EU law and best practice in this field. Second, the Polish government has acted as a partner towards the Commission and before the submission of the act in the parliament, we had previously presented in Brussels the assumptions and aims of the draft act. Before it found its way to the Polish Parliament, the Commission knew well what subject of the regulation was.
– And what support from Brussels do we expect on a recovery plan for the inland waterways?
– First of all, we will request the European Commission to enter the inland waterways in Poland to the trans-European networks of transport corridors the so-called TEN-T. As a result of years of negligence of the important Polish river transport, i.e., Vistula and Oder were not entered into the TEN-T, and this causes that we cannot benefit from European funds with investments on these rivers.
We are currently working on the arrangement of finance which will show the effectiveness of financial mechanisms necessary for the reconstruction of inland waterways. We want to reach for the funding of the “Connecting Europe Facility”, whose task is to support projects aimed at improving infrastructure connections, road, rail or water. But we cannot do that until the Oder and Vistula are not added to the TEN-T.
– When the Oder and the Vistula could enter to the TEN-T?
– The European Commission announced that in 2017 the trans-European transport corridors will be revised. There is a high probability that the Commission by the end of the year will send to the Member States a form regarding the TEN-T. We hope that in the second half of 2017 the decision on entering the Polish rivers to the TEN-T could be taken.
– What are the chances for entering the rivers to the TEN-T? Other countries are about to strive for their rivers. How can we convince the European Commission?
– The justification we have is obvious. Poland is a country situated centrally in the middle part of the continent, which is at the intersection of roads connecting all directions in Europe. This is the ideal location for the realization of north-south and east-west transportation routes. The European Union must realize that in order to be more competitive in the global markets, because it is the right perspective, it must create and maintain a system of efficient transport of goods on the territory of the Member States. And our inland waterways perfectly fit these criteria.
The second argument is the EU Transport White Paper, which assumes that by the year 2030, 30 percent of freight over distances greater than 300 km should be carried out by rail or water transport. And we simply fit in the realization of this book, when it comes to the development of inland waterways.
Another argument are the requirements of EU climate policy. Water transport emits about one-seventh less greenhouse gases and chemicals even in relation to road transport.
I want to emphasize one important thing; the program of reconstruction of inland waterways was not made to ensure the navigability of rivers only in Poland, because it would not completely pay off. Our inland waterways, I’m talking primarily about the Oder must be included in the European river system; they must be included in a string of logistics across Europe. And only then it gives a meaning to the whole program.
– We signed a treaty with Germany on the Oder border. It assumes that this stretch of the river does not exceed a third-class navigability, or regional level. What if Germany does not agree to renegotiate the treaty, recognizing that change of the navigability class can compete with the German rivers?
– In recent days, I had several meetings in Germany and passed our German partners the information that making the Oder navigable above class III is in our mutual interest. And the agreement on the Oder border needs to be a subject of further in-depth reflection on the level of the two countries. Definitely I confirm that the current contract for the Oder border providing class III navigability is a document that is not fully congruent with the realities of the economic use of the river.
We arranged with the German side that for the time being at the expert level we will be explaining to what extent it is possible to work on making the Oder navigable to such an extent that will bring it to the international class IV navigability.
There is a serious problem with the mentioned agreement, but I want to say that the German side is warmly and kindly invited to cooperate in making the Oder navigable, and if it considers that it will not be cost-effective, I hope that they will create conditions that will prevent the implementation of our program.
– During the visit of the President of China Xi Jinping in Poland there were talks on the possibility of Chinese investment in the inland waterways and ports of Szczecin, Świnoujście and Tri-City. Have any specific agreements possibly been signed?
– We are in talks of the economic nature and such ones like silence. In our common interest I will not give any details today. Polish-Chinese consultations were held in very good atmosphere, the Chinese side has expressed preliminary interest. We will continue the dialog and we hope that it will result in serious and large investments in Polish ports and rivers. I can, however, assure you that we are not planning the sale of the port of Gdańsk to Chinese investors.
GL (based on Polish Press Agency)