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Diplomacy

Airbus Helicopters to seek compensation in spat over failed deal with Poland

French aircraft maker Airbus has attacked the Polish government for its handling of a failed helicopter deal. The row has caused a rise in diplomatic tensions between Paris and Warsaw.

The Polish government had unexpectedly ended negotiations with Airbus Helicopters earlier in October over a 3.14 billion euro ($3.5 billion) deal to purchase 50 Caracal helicopters.

Poland announced that it would instead opt for buying at least 21 Black Hawk helicopters made at a plant in Poland by the US company Sikorsky, which is part of the Lockheed Martin group. The government said that its main motivation was to support jobs at the local plant.

"Foreign investments in Poland should be modern, long-term and should guarantee good prospects of employment for Polish workers," Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said.

"The conditions of cooperation should be beneficial to both sides," she added.

The criticism came just days after French President Francois Hollande postponed a visit to Warsaw in response to a breakdown in talks over the purchase.

Airbus to seek compensation

Airbus, which had won a tender under a previous Polish government to procure the helicopters, meanwhile claimed that it had been misled for months and said it would seek compensation.

"Never have we been treated by any government customer the way this government has treated us," Airbus chief executive Tom Enders said in a statement.

"Airbus wanted to invest in Poland big time and we wanted to contribute to building a competitive aerospace industry in this country. But the Polish government slammed the door on us. We take note of this," he added, stressing that Airbus would have created some 6,000 new jobs in Poland, and developed a state-owned servicing plant in the city of Lodz in central Poland. Enders stressed that his company would seek "remedies," without providing further details.

Accusations and counter-accusations

Polish Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz told reporters in Warsaw that "it wasn't the Polish side who broke off the talks."

"Unfortunately the two sides did not see eye to eye on the offset package," he said, referring to the original arrangement of setting up a factory in Poland.

Poland's Deputy Development Minister Radoslaw Domagalski-Labedzki meanwhile said the negotiations were terminated because Poland realized its expectations would not be met, adding that Airbus had long been aware of Poland's reservations.

The rapid succession from the announcement of the breakdown in talks with Airbus to the official switchover to Lockheed Martin as the new provider for the helicopters has raised question over the government's real intentions.

ss/jm (AP, AFP)

 

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