Thursday, July 23, 2009

There is a world out there!

Just over a year ago, we reported that President Lech Kaczynski of Poland, after making no end of bellicose noises about the constitutional Lisbon treaty, had effectively folded and agreed to ratify it. Not weeks previously he had been telling the world that it was "pointless"

At the time, we suggested that we did not have to look very far for the reason. On the stocks was an EU commission decision on whether six years of "illegal" state aid paid to the historic shipyards of Gdansk, Gdynia and Szczecin would have to be repaid. Amounting to €2.1 billion, this could bankrupt the yards whose workers helped toppled the communist regime in 1989.

Completely coincidentally, the news later emerged that the commission was to delay execution for three months. By then, we ventured, a refinancing deal would doubtless have been stitched up, the details of which would be released once the treaty ratification was safely in the bag.

It actually took a little longer than three months – in fact, until today. But the commission has nevertheless announced a restructuring plan for Poland's ailing Gdansk shipyard and approved retrospectively the state aid granted to the shipyard since Poland joined the EU in 2004. Some of the aid is yet to come.

Mind you, while Kaczynski was as good as his word and did ratify the treaty, he still has not lodged the papers in Rome, so the last formal step has yet to be completed and, officially, Poland remains one of the refuseniks. We wonder what the price tag will be for that last step.