Interview of Ambassador Mr. Tomasz Orłowski
by Ivan De Stefano
Your Excellency the Ambassador, how long have You been covering Your diplomatic role in Italy, and what is Your experience of it?
I am serving as Ambassador to Italy since a little bit more than one year. It is a time just enough for saying that I have the feeling I am knowing the country I am serving. It is a very exciting opportunity, first of all, to have a possibility to know better the country, to make trips around Italy for heading new meetings in several important regional capitals, not only Milan, that is like an economic and financial capital for Italy, but also other relevant cities like Turin, Florence, Venice, Naples, Palermo and Bari.
First of all this opportunity is showing me how rich Italy is, secondly how different it is and how important it is to gain these experiences for understanding and cooperating better with Italy.
What are the cultural meeting points between the Poland and Italy?
The first answer thus will be that we are belonging to the Christian culture and identity. Secondly, we are sharing the same values, being members of UE and NATO, and thirdly we have the same love for liberty. Throughout history Italians and Poles showed how important liberty is to them. In the most elaborated form I would say that very often Poles are considered as Latin of the North. It is the beginning for understanding for which reason we are feeling so close to Italians.
During the Middle Ages many Poles studied in Italian universities: law in Bologna and medicine in Padua. The whole Polish elite was educated in Italy. Later a number of Italian artists worked in Poland, especially since the Renaissance. Italian architects built a new castle in Krakow and a lot of new constructions: even now, walking around the downtown of Krakow, you have the feeling to be like in Florence. Later on Poland was very engaged in battles against the Muslims, as a Christian nation it was one of the pillars of western Christianity and one of the most important allies for the Holy Father, the Pope of Rome.
Since the 17 century every young well-born Pole did his Grand Tour in Italy: several young aristocrat Poles visited Rome, Naples, Pompeii, Florence and, returning to Poland, they brought with them some ideas of the ancient Mediterranean culture and of the ancient, roman and Christian world. Altogether it was the most important vision of Italy in Poland.
During the 19 century we shall consider the Polish battles in all the wars for independence of Italy. We can mention the legion of General Dąbrowski, ally of General Bonaparte during the Napoleonic wars, and even the Polish national anthem was composed in Reggio Emilia, where Polish soldiers were with Garibaldi and Vittorio Emanuele. We fought for Italian independence during the wars of the 19 century but even during the last war, when the Polish Second Corps liberated Monte Cassino and lot of Italian cities, like Ancona and Bologna.
Economic and cultural ties and a sense of being close is completing this feeling to be countries that work together, understand and share the same ideas of Europe.
Can You tell us about the current situation in regards to the economical exchanges between Italy and Your country?
Economic ties between Poland and Italy are strong and both countries cooperate closely on major economic issues. It should come as no surprise, since Italy and Poland are among the biggest economies in the European Union. According to the IMF data for 2015 and 2016, Italy is the 4th largest economy and Poland the 6th in terms of GDP at purchasing power parity.
Italy is one of Poland’s strategic economic partners and our 2nd most important trade partner, with two-way trade in 2015 totaling 17,8 billion euros (source: Polish Ministry of Economic Development). Our trade volume grew rapidly over the past decade, registering a 76% rise (compared with 2005 data). In terms of trade flows, imports from Italy increased by almost 40% in that period and now amount to 9,3 billion euros. In the same period, Polish exports to Italy rose twofold and reached 8,5 billion euros. Trade balance between Italy and Poland shows positive values for the Italian export sector.
As for investments, Poland is an attractive destination often chosen by foreign investors. In fact, according to the UNCTAD 2015 World Investment Report, Poland entered the Top 20 host economies in terms of FDI inflows in 2014. Like many other countries, Italy also decided to locate its investments in Poland (i.e. FCA, Brembo, Astaldi, Benetton, Salini-Impregilo, Unicredit). The cumulative value of Italian FDI (reaching 9,3 billion euros) makes Italy the 6th largest foreign investor in Poland, after Germany, Netherlands, France, Luxembourg, and Spain.
Obviously, Polish investments in Italy are not on par with the Italian ones in Poland for the simple reason that for many years Poland has been deprived of its freedom to make its own economic choices. After liberating ourselves from the shackles of communism, for a number of years our economic activity was limited to exporting goods. This trend, however, is changing. Over the past 10 years, there has been a rapid, twentyfold increase in the value of FDI coming from Poland. Polish companies are becoming more mature and ready to invest in other countries, as, for instance, is the case with Oknoplast and Solaris in Italy.
What strategies have You been adopting to promote Your country both economically as well as culturally and touristically?
First of all when I plan how to promote Poland in Italy I have always in mind the cultural meeting points as already mentioned above. An important value in my strategy is also a recurrence of our projects to attract the audience and increase our visibility.
Nevertheless we have already reached some important numbers in our economic exchange, there is still a room for growth. It is not an easy task to promote “made in Poland” in the demanding Italian market. That is why last year we started a project called “The Centaur of the Polish exports to Italy”. It is an award for the Polish companies which reach the best annual results in exports value to Italy. By this award we would like to build a consciousness and a reliance of the Polish brands. This year we also plan to award a special “Centaur” to the Italian representative who has significantly contributed to the Polish economic expansion in Italy.
As we know Italians are very challenging public when it comes to the cultural events. Therefore we have to do our best. Last year I inaugurated the regular music rencontres in our Embassy to promote Chopin and other less known but very talented Polish composers. This year we plan to widen this project significantly. So to get to know more follow our social media in the upcoming months.
A real crosscutting promotion of Poland we make thanks to the Embassy Fashion Calendar project. You have to admit that promoting your country in Italy by fashion it is not a piece of cake! We try to make it as much as we can Polish, professional and elegant: a Polish top model, a brilliant Polish photographer, the Polish best fashion design apparels and the Polish Embassy as a stylish backdrop. A limited edition is distributed to the special recipients – influencing people of politics and culture across Italy.
As a last one but very savoury let me mention our successful culinary project. I invite you to visit our Facebook profile “Dalla Polonia con gusto” to experience on your own, even if only through your screen, the tasty Polish traditional cuisine. After that only one step away from booking your trip to Poland!
What is the relationship in The Poland between production and respect for the environment?
One of the phenomena of Poland is its dualistic character – Poland belongs to the group of the most industrialized states in Europe, characteristic that shares also with Italy, with more than 20% of GDP coming from production. On the other hand Poland is famous for its natural values. In Poland there are nine UNESCO Biosphere Reserves (same shared with neighboring countries), twenty three National Parks, dozens of protected areas, covering the whole territory, from mountains, lake districts, swamps, forests up to the shores of Baltic Sea. Developing our industrial potential, we have still maintained the “green” profile of our country that attracts tourists from all over the world. Keeping the balance between the economic needs, and environmental protection is not easy task, but, a lot have been done in this area, especially in recent years. Only the last decade brought the massive reduction of industrial pollution: e.g. the SO2 emission has been cut by half, dust emission lowered by more than 60%. Huge, and costly investments has been done to reduce CO2 emissions. It is important to stress the pro-nature attitude of population, that demands the application of the higher possible standards for new industrial settlements, and growing environmental awareness of industrial sector that tend to be involved in initiatives aiming in nature protection. I think that future development of Poland, especially stress put on innovations and new industrial forms will foster a positive correlation between industry and environment, that can benefit from smart industrial policy.
Can You give us an anticipation of the projects for renewable energies in which Your country believes in and is keen to invest in?
This year the Polish government has announced the Plan of Responsible Development (so called Morawiecki’s Plan, from the name e of Vice-Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki) – the long term strategy aimed to boost polish economy and innovation potential avoiding “middle income trap”. The Plan pays close attention to energy issues, and the need to transform the present energy model. According to the document Poland will not only modernize its energy infrastructure, but will tend to spread the energy production all over the county, introducing consumer production model, that naturally favors small and medium size renewables plants. The new energy scheme will be based on low-carbon emission sources and highly innovative technologies in energy production and energy accumulation infrastructure, important when it comes to unstable renewable sources. It is obvious that these goals will be achievable with only high share of renewables in Polish energy mix. When it comes to direct answer to your question, it is important to stress that weather and geographical conditions vary depending on the region. That forces flexible approach, and tailored solutions for every part of Poland. The Morawiecki’s Plan indicates geothermal as a new, potentially effective renewable source that can bring benefits to many regions of Poland, rich in geothermic sources. Geotermal, as less affected by the weather changes, e.g. lack of sun or wind, can provide reasonable solution especially in energy demanding heating sector, and some industrial activities.