Federal Councillor Schneider-Ammann on Poland visit

Article, 29.02.2012

Federal Councillor Johann Schneider-Ammann was in Poland from 15 to 17 February for a series of working meetings. During his visit he met the Minister of Regional Development, Elżbieta Bieńkowska, whose portfolio includes the Swiss enlargement contribution.

During the visit of Federal Councillor Schneider-Ammann an agreement on the launch of a renewable energy project was signed.
During the visit of Federal Councillor Schneider-Ammann an agreement on the launch of a renewable energy project was signed. © SECO

Due to the size of its population and its per-capita income, Poland receives almost half of the Swiss enlargement contribution. In all, Switzerland will support around 60 Polish projects.

Ministers in optimistic mood

At their working meeting, Federal Councillor Johann Schneider-Ammann and the Polish Minister of Regional Development, Elżbieta Bieńkowska, expressed their satisfaction at cooperation between the two countries thus far. By the end of 2011, 46 projects had received the green light, and funding totalling CHF 387 million had been approved. Switzerland has also provisionally accepted all of Poland’s project ideas, which have since been developed into detailed project proposals. These are expected to receive definitive authorisation by June 2012. Both sides were confident that all available financial resources will be able to be committed to projects. However, Poland has had to put a number of projects on hold due to a lack of funding caused by budget cuts.

Coal makes way for solar water heating

During his visit, Federal Councillor Schneider-Ammann also signed an agreement on the launch of a renewable energy project in Mszana, a region in the southeast of Poland. Emission rates here are considerably higher than those observed in Western European countries. Air pollution, particularly fine particulate pollution, significantly increases the risk of lung and cardiovascular diseases. It also poses a serious threat to the plant and animal diversity of the nearby UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, National Parks and Natura 2000 regions. Most of the emissions in Mszana are caused by the use of coal to heat water and homes. The aim of the project is to improve air quality in the region by sourcing and installing solar energy systems in 2,300 private properties and six public buildings. Information campaigns and appropriate training will ensure that the solar heating system is used and maintained correctly. Switzerland has earmarked around CHF 9 million for this project.

Energy efficiency, regional development and public transport

In addition to the official talks, members of the media had the opportunity to visit four projects. The first was to the disadvantaged province of Malopolska, which is already a focal point for Swiss action.

Solar panels for hot water in Poland
Solar panels for hot water in Poland © SECO

In Niepolomice, journalists visited a renewable energy project similar to the one that will be launched in Mszana. A total of 3,841 homes and 26 public buildings are now equipped with a solar water heating system. Two solar power generators and four heat pumps have also been installed. These serve Niepolomice’s public buildings.

In Malopolska Province, members of the media visited one of three hospitals, which now have modern central heating, cooling and ventilation systems. Not only will this project lead to more efficient energy use, but it should also reduce annual CO2 emissions by 1,630 tonnes.

Journalists then travelled to Nowy Sacz, where they visited one of ten projects that seek to strengthen local entrepreneurship. The main priorities are the promotion of local tourism and innovative farming. In addition, modern vocational and ongoing training models are to ensure that the local community benefits from a better quality of education.

market stand
Switzerland promotes innovative farming. © Ministerstwo Infrastruktury i Rozwoju

For the fourth project visit on the programme, journalists did not have to travel far from their base in the Polish capital, as the town of Legionowo is only 23 kilometres northeast of Warsaw. As part of the project, the town’s railway station, which was built in the 1970s as a temporary solution, will be entirely rebuilt. The project also includes the construction of access roads, a bus station and a 800-space car park. The primary beneficiaries of the project will be the 50,000 residents of this booming suburb, many of whom commute to work in Warsaw.