When money has to be sought to implement programs from a menu of election promises, and when one is faced with conflict resulting from a multiple coalition electorate, this is a time when large infrastructure projects can be pushed forward or stifled. Especially when they are associated with the previous government. This is what is likely to happen in Poland.

Eight years of Law and Justice (PiS) rule brought a kind of revolution in Polish thinking about the economy. On one hand, by the opposition left on the side of the anti-PiS coalition, and on the other hand by Kaczyński’s government itself, as it showed that social transfers, but also large projects, are possible, and the money will be found for them. It is easy for hardcore liberal skirmishers to associate all large – byzantine, as liberals say – projects with Kaczyński and accuse him of megalomania. Sowhat will be the fate of the Central Communication Port and other infrastructure projects now, when Kaczyński is no more in power?

There are quite a few of them: a gas port, a nuclear power plant (or more plants), development of the Polish arms industry with Korean support, but the main axis of the dispute is currently the Central Communication Port. Why? 

The topic of building a centrally-located airport for Poland has been present since 1971.

It runs through the programs and plans of many governments in Poland, from the communist-reformist government of Edward Gierek, through the post-communist government of Leszek Miller (2001–2004) to the government of Mateusz Morawiecki (2019–2023) from Law and Justice. It passes as an investment already started, in the sense of documents and building permits, to the government of Donald Tusk. But politically, it remains known as a ‘Law and Justice investment’. In 2016, the government of Beata Szydło returned to the concept under the name Central Communication Port (CCP or CPK in Polish). Law and Justice began to develop this project under this name, from then on it had a political monopoly on the entire project.

Today, after some time, we can say that it was part of the great plan for the modernization of Poland. This can only be said now, because Law and Justice itself was unable to properly sell this concept. While the party was still in power, the airport-to-be was rather associated with the positions of phantom directors receiving thousands of PLN for their supposed work on a project that is still being developed. True, there were many such sinecures, and not only related to the airport. The same happened in practically all of the mentioned projects, except those related to the arms industry.

Kaczyński fell into his own trap of politics perceived as a conflict of post-Solidarity elites. In other words, he focused on the return of Donald Tusk himself, and not on the program of his coalition or the positive plan of his own party. 

All the grand projects promised by Law and Justice remain… projects. CCP, one large hub airport that would cover the entire territory of Poland, remains a project as well. But another things is a fact: many regional airports, including Warsaw, are choking under the pressure of growing number of passengers and at the same time they cannot be expanded any further, due to location or other limitations.

Potential threat? 

So who could the project itself be a threat to? Of course, first of all, for the elites associated with old solutions and airports. Urban and regional elites, especially those from western Poland, but not only them – Warsaw is, after all, rather on the border of eastern Poland – see this project as an annihilation of their former influence. After all, these small regional airports are partly owned by local governments, while the other owner is a state-owned company called Porty Lotnicze. 

Currently, in the middle of the conflict itself, it is said that it is some kind of party inside Tusk’s party, i.e. the Masovian group, gathered around the authorities of Masovian voivodeship, that is trying to block the current project. This is a clique associated with both Tusk’s Civic Platform and his coalition partners from the Polish People’s Party, an old party of apparatchiks and farmers who do best in local elections. It is said that they have no views except those of their coalition partners at the national level. Which is not entirely true, after all, they represent the regional interests of their own cadres, which have occupied a significant part of local governments for years, despite often weak national support.

The current person elected to be responsible for the project is MP Maciej Lasek from the Polish People’s Party. He is an expert in aircraft accidents, not in the aviation business. Moreover, he is widely considered to be opposed to the creation of CCP, and as such he seems to be the voice of the local government elites from Masovia opposed to the project. His bizarre statements led to the Prime Minister himself speaking out.

Debate is pointless… 

“The debate about stopping the construction of the CPK is pointless. PiS has not even started this construction. You might as well discuss the quality of Izera electric cars,” Prime Minister Donald Tusk wrote on the X platform (formerly Twitter). One must add that the electric cars, promised by Mateusz Morawiecki, never materialized indeed.  

The statement of the current mayor of Warsaw from 2018, Rafał Trzaskowski from CIvic Platform, was also recalled. The politician said: “We have the gigantomania, which proposes an airport in the middle of nowhere. In Berlin, after many years, it worked, and we will have an airport (…) it will be difficult to compete with it. We have Okęcie, we have an airport in Modlin, and absolutely Warsaw enough”. The statement was made during one of the meetings with Warsaw residents during the elections for the president of Warsaw. Interestingly, a significant part of Tusk’s party elites do not believe that this statement is scandalous to this day, exposing themselves to attacks by the right wing as agents of German influence. Who else in Poland could have said that a Berlin airport might be sufficient for Polish passengers!

On February 8, 2024, at the request of Law and Justice MP Marcin Horała, a discussion took place in the Sejm on “sabotaging” the Central Communication Port, one of the flagship investments of the previous government.

“Since December last year, the handbrake has been applied to this process. More deadlines are passing, there should be an environmental decision – there is none, there should be a tender announced for drilling a high-speed railway tunnel – there is none, out of four prepared applications for EU funding, only two have been submitted, and the remaining two are, according to the minister, poorly prepared,” Horała said.

Late even President takes part in this discussion, before a meeting between his ministers and the ones belonging to the government of Prime Minister Tusk on the 13th of February, he stated on X:

“Today, I want us to talk about the large investments that are underway – building a nuclear power plant in Poland, but also other investments that we must implement, including as part of our obligations. I would like us to also talk about building the CPK. I consider this investment to be strategic in the context of security, including military security. The topic will also be the modernization of the Polish army, the implementation of existing and subsequent contracts, and the development of port infrastructure and wind farms.  These are fundamental issues for Poland’s development and I want it to be implemented. People want the Republic of Poland to develop and be safe”.

Moreover, the entire right-wing opposition and also the left-wing component of Tusk’s coalition seem to agree with the statements of the Law and Justice MP. A cross-party team was even established for CCP, nuclear energy and the development of infrastructure projects on the Polish coast, which I will discuss in a moment. Much of the criticism comes from the left, which is fighting particularly hard for the development of the railway component of the project. This part is perhaps even more ambitious than the airport construction in itself. It would aim to connect Poland with high-speed connections a la the French TGV or the Italian Frecciarossa, centered between Łódź and Warsaw. Their goal is to make it possible to get to Warsaw and CPP airport from anywhere in Poland in two hours.

This is a chance! 

At the same time, there is literally not a single serious expert, who is not a politician, who would say that the CPP project should be postponed, reviewed, or eliminated. Quite the opposite – there is an entire ocean of publications, debates and analyzes that support the creation of CPP. Most of them, however, are created on the outskirts of the journalist world, in think tanks, publications of economists, military strategists, and aviation market experts. The largest debate on YouTube was watched by over a million people!

Experts present a whole range of arguments, showing that speaking of gigantism is not the right evaluation of things. CCP would be the 12th airport in Europe, every large economy in Europe has such an airport, and what is more, it would support Poland’s defense capabilities in times of the new Cold War.  In addition, the current airport infrastructure is not sufficient, which is also stated by the state Civil Aviation Office.

Moreover, even European think tanks related to the aviation market, and therefore not being part of the Polish polarization, indicate that CPP can quickly reach as much as 20% of the air cargo market in a short period of time in Central and Eastern Europe, becoming a real hub of Polish industry and services. In addition, according to experts, by 2060, i.e. after less than 30 years of the project’s operation, it would bring as much as PLN 200 billion to the Polish economy alone, i.e. approximately USD 50 billion.

All these arguments collide with the tweets of politicians from Tusk’s party, who write that the airport will become a target for the Russians (just if smaller airports could not). Confronted with the arguments, they publish how much people associated with Kaczyński have earned working on the project so far. Then they claim they just wish to analyze how much had been spent so far and not to kill off the idea. Hard to believe!

Not only the airport… 

The current dispute over CPP reflects the climate surrounding all infrastructure investments. We are talking about the already mentioned nuclear energy, the gas port in Świnoujście and the digging up of the Vistula Spit so that ships could reach the city of Elbląg. 

In the latest United Surveys study for DGP and RMF FM, one of the biggest newspapers in Poland asked about the demands of the left-liberal coalition regarding the withdrawal from key investments of recent years. Most people (85%) are convinced of the need to build nuclear power plants. The plan to continue large military spending is also supported by three-quarters of respondents. We are more divided on the CPK issue, but the slim majority (51%) of respondents are in favor of completing this project.

So we will soon have a discussion about the mentioned projects, not only about CPP. What will the government coalition do about it? Statements regarding the relocation of the nuclear power plant site have fallen silent. The issue of the project in Elbląg is slowly turning out to be too far advanced to be eliminated. But how long will these disputes freeze these projects?

It seems that this is partly a matter of the upcoming local government elections, and it is known that these investments are the most controversial in the regions covered by them. It is possible that the government coalition wants to gain votes by putting a question mark on the projects and thus proving that huge money are no longer being spent. However, this weakens the position of Polish business in the international arena.

Cover photo: CCP project promoted during Berlin InoTrans fair. Photo by Michał Beim.

Subscribe to Cross-border Talks’ YouTube channel! Follow the project’s Facebook and Twitter page! And here are the podcast’s Telegram channel and its Substack newsletter!

Like our work? Donate to Cross-Border Talks or buy us a coffee!

About The Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *