International Herald Tribune
Polish air carrier faces delicate choice
By Judy Dempsey Friday, October 29, 2004
WARSAW When Poland's national air carrier, Lot, starts shopping for new aircraft, it will face one of the toughest decisions in its 75-year history: whether to buy European or American. The choice is no mere business matter, for whatever Lot decides, it is likely to leave Poland hostage to accusations that it has betrayed an ally.
"We are just at the beginning of the process," Leszek Chorzewski, a spokesman for Lot, said this week. "The decision could be made in the first months of next year."
The situation with Lot illustrates how difficult it is for former Communist countries and new EU members like Poland to build a future free of domination - be it from Moscow, Washington or Brussels - without engendering feelings of ingratitude that could affect everything from the flow of Western aid to the degree to which the Central and East European lands can overcome their past.
At present, Lot uses only Boeing aircraft for its long-haul and middle-range fleets, with its oldest long-haul aircraft already 17 years old. Soviet Tupolev jets, used by Lot during the Communist era, have been phased out.
Although there is nothing new about the rivalry between Boeing and Airbus, what makes the Polish tender special is the Europeans' desire to settle scores. They have not forgotten how the European military sector was squeezed out more than 18 months ago when Poland chose Lockheed Martin, the U.S. military contractor, for a $3 billion purchase to equip its air force.
Poland bought the 48 American-made F-16 fighters at a time when it was involved in difficult enlargement negotiations with the EU and was enduring sharp reproaches from Brussels for moving too slowly to implement EU legislation.
France, furious over the Lockheed purchase, suggested that the government in Warsaw was acting disloyally at a time when it should have been aligning itself much more closely to European industrial and foreign policy decisions.
continue article at http://www.iht.com/articles/2004/10/28/news/poland.html.
Photo © Johan Knijn