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Hollande postpones Warsaw trip

October 7, 2016

French President Francois Hollande will not travel to Poland next Thursday for bilateral talks. Reports say France is reviewing defense ties with Warsaw following the scrapping of a multi-billion euro helicopter order.

Airbus Caracal Hubschrauber
Image: picture-alliance/abaca/E. Major

France is to review its military cooperation with Poland after the cancellation of the Airbus helicopter deal, a source close to the matter told the Reuters news agency on Friday.

"The Franco-Polish bilateral relationship will undeniably be extremely affected by this decision," the source said. "The contract's cancellation will force us to review all the defense cooperation that we have with Poland and see what can be maintained and sadly what can't in the current context."

The source added that the French government, as a shareholder in Airbus, would also push for the company to review its investments in Poland.

Earlier on Friday, French President Francois Hollande's office said in a statement that the president's visit to Warsaw - scheduled for October 13 - had been put back. Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault would travel for the intergovernmental talks in his place, the Elysee Palace said.

Francois Hollande
President Francois Hollande won't travel to WarsawImage: Getty Images/AFP/S. De Sakutin

Warsaw backtracks

On Tuesday, Poland halted a deal with Airbus to buy 50 of its Caracal military helicopters, in a deal worth an estimated 3.14 billion euros ($3.51 billion).

Poland's Ministry of Development said that the two sides were unable to reach a compromise, saying that a condition for the completion of the deal was the signing of several compensatory investments.

Airbus "has not submitted a proposal that meets the economic and security interests of the Polish state," the ministry said in a statement.

The original deal had been signed by Poland's previous government, which was defeated in last October by the euroskeptic Law and Justice (PiS) party.

Tough tender

Airbus had beaten off competition from America's Sikorsky, the UK's Lockheed Martin, and Italy's AgustaWestland to seal the deal. All the manufacturers have production facilities in Poland.

A visit to Warsaw by French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian scheduled for Monday has also subsequently been canceled, according to sources close to the deal.

The announcement dealt a blow to Airbus Helicopters, a subsidiary of the European aircraft manufacturer based in southeastern France.

Airbus Helicopters is one of the world's most prolific manufacturers of both civilian and military helicopters. Until 2014, roughly 55 percent of its turnover originated from civilian aircraft - prior to the Polish Caracal deal folding, the company had announced that it expected its military sales unit to start generating a greater share of its income. 

mm/msh (AFP, Reuters)