“the most important collaborations between Poland and Japan are related to energy and infrastructure”

Optimistic about the future

Ambassador of Poland to Japan Paweł Milewski


October 2020 The Interview / Text by Andrew Howitt / Photos by Michael Holmes 

Ambassador of Poland to Japan Paweł Milewski’s career has had a strong focus on Asia. Since joining Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1999, he has acted as the head of culture and promotion at the Polish embassy in China and has worked extensively in the ministry’s Asia–Pacific Department, leading it between 2017 and 2019. He served as ambassador to Australia from 2013 to 2017 and was posted to Tokyo to serve as ambassador in December 2019.

Could you tell me about Poland’s response to the coronavirus pandemic?
The reaction of the Polish government was very quick and well thought out. From mid-March, all public events were cancelled, schools and pre-schools were suspended, and state borders were temporarily closed to foreign nationals. Thanks to these measures, we can now steadily recover.

I can’t say that we have remained untouched by the crisis — Polish GDP fell 8.2% in the second quarter — but, now that the lockdown is over, we are much more optimistic about the future of Poland’s economic performance. So is the European Commission: in its economic forecast published in July, prospects for Poland in 2020 are the brightest among all EU member states. Our GDP will probably decrease only by 4.6% whereas the average for the EU is -8.3%.

The government introduced a package of extraordinary solutions, referred to as an “anti-crisis shield”, to support its citizens and businesses. It consists of five pillars: job protection and the security of workers; the financing of undertakings; health care; strengthening the financial system; and public investment. The most up-to-date estimates show that the total amount of Polish subsidies is 212 billion PLN, which is nearly 10% of Polish annual GDP.

Once the current crisis is over, we look forward to seeing people-to-people contacts with Japan restored. I hope that the number of students and tourists going from Japan to Poland, and vice versa, will go back to the levels seen before the pandemic as soon as possible.

Could you give a few examples of important collaborations taking place between Poland and Japan right now?
Currently, the most important collaborations between Poland and Japan are related to energy and infrastructure. Similar to Japan, the Polish energy sector depends a great deal on coal. Considering the EU’s energy policy, in which environmental factors play a big role, we have to significantly transform our energy industry over the coming years. We are especially interested in the implementation of clean coal technologies, such as the integrated gasification combined cycle, into Polish power stations.
Another example of cooperation is related to hydrogen technologies. In 2018, Poland joined the Tokyo Statement during the Hydrogen Energy Ministerial Meeting. Since then, we have been actively cooperating with Japan in this area with the aim of introducing the concept of a hydrogen society on a large scale.
There is also nuclear energy. According to Poland’s newest energy policy, PEP2040, we will build our first, full-scale commercial nuclear reactor by 2033. We consider Japan to be a potential contractor for this project. At the same time, we are cooperating with Japan on developing high-temperature gas-cooled reactor technology. In 2017, the Polish National Centre for Nuclear Research signed a memorandum of cooperation in this field with the Japan Atomic Energy Agency.
Regarding infrastructure, the most important project we are working on in Poland is the Solidarity Transport Hub, a completely new airport that is going to be built between Warsaw and Lodz. It also includes construction of 1,600km of high-speed-rail lines and the modernisation of 2,400km of existing railway lines. It’s the biggest Polish infrastructure project in decades, with the new airport expected to handle 45 million passengers a year. Currently, Japan’s Narita International Airport is participating in the tender to become the strategic advisor on this project.

Could you give a few examples of Polish businesses here?
One recent arrival is Comarch, a global software house from Poland, which delivers and integrates proprietary IT products. They provide solutions for multiple industries, including telecommunications, banking, airlines, petrol stations, and utilities.
Another example is RTB House, which provides online marketing services. They make sure that campaigns perform better and generate content accurately tailored to customers’ profiles by using deep-learning algorithms. They also identify potential buyers and deliver ultra-personalised ads.
There are also plenty of Polish companies that do not have their offices physically in Japan but are active in the Japanese market. A great example are companies in the games industry, and Japan is a very attractive place for all of them. Many people do not know that Poland has over 440 studios and companies developing games, out of which 43 are listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange. The year-over-year growth of the game industry in Poland remains steady, at nearly 30%. It’s very dynamic.

Could you tell me about the visit of Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to Japan in January?
The visit was a great success. Prime Minister Morawiecki came to Japan at Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe’s invitation, which was given to him during a summit of the Visegrád Group — an alliance of four Central European countries — in Bratislava in April 2019. The main purpose was to increase the dynamism of our cooperation.
Japan is an important foreign investor in Poland — we host over 300 Japanese companies, and some of them recently decided to expand their presence in Poland. In July, Toyota announced a new investment worth $5 million USD. It has built a testing center for electro continuously variable transmission in their existing plant in Walbrzych, and it is going to invest more in the coming years.
Prime Minister Morawiecki underlined that although we wanted the UK to stay in the EU, after Brexit was officially announced, we recognised the difficult position of Japanese companies there. He assured those Japanese companies that they are most welcome in Poland.
He also gave a talk at the Keidanren and participated in a business seminar with potential investors interested in our infrastructure and energy projects. The visit was, to a considerable extent, business-oriented.•

Follow the Embassy of Poland’s Twitter account at @PLinTokyo

“the most important collaborations between Poland and Japan are related to energy and infrastructure”