Polish PM slams builders over delays

WLOCLAWEK - Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk on Thursday warned builders of flagship infrastructure projects for Euro 2012 they could lose their contracts because of delays and faults.

Poland is co-hosting the tournament with Ukraine and Tusk has made updating the country's antiquated infrastructure a key priority for his government ahead of the championship.

However, Poland's new national stadium, being built by a Polish-Austrian consortium, and a key highway in the central part of the country being constructed by a Chinese company are behind schedule due to technical faults or problems with financing.

"In both cases, I will propose decisive steps. Everything needs to be in line with the agreements, the law. We have paid deposits, we have penalties stipulated. The Polish state will definitely not lose out on this financially," Tusk said.

"We don't want the builders to delay work trying to extort higher prices from the Polish state," he told reporters during a visit to an industrial site in central Poland.

Poland's National Sports Centre (NCS), which oversees the construction of the stadium, has given the companies building the venue two weeks to fix faulty stairs, leaking stands and other shortcomings on the site.

"Our call for tackling all the glaring deficiencies is the last attempt to discipline the contractor. After these two weeks we have the right to cancel the agreement," said NCS spokeswoman Daria Kulinska.

BOOST SUPPORT

Tusk, a keen football fan, faces national elections this autumn and hopes the ambitious infrastructure building programme will boost support for his ruling centre-right Civic Platform (PO) party.

Since taking power in late 2007, the PO-led government has built 1,242 km of roads, including 200 km of major highways.

But Chinese consortium COVEC, which in 2009 offered the lowest price for building a 50 km stretch of highway between Warsaw and the city of Lodz - part of a key road due to run to Germany - recently stopped paying its Polish collaborators.

They halted work in protest.

"The Chinese side promised to catch up with all arrears by May 30, but so far we have seen neither the payments nor received any fresh information," said Mikolaj Karpinski, a spokesman for Poland's infrastructure ministry.

"The highway was supposed to be opened in May 2012, just days before Euro 2012. We appreciate that problems with liquidity on the Chinese side have cost us several precious days, but we still hope we will make it on time," he added.

Poland lags well behind most of its European peers in the size and quality of its road network.

The country of 38 million has around 1,500 km of major roads versus more than 12,500 km in Germany, which has a population of 82 million.


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