WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland’s potential new foreign minister on Tuesday questioned the country’s initial deal to buy French Airbus Group’s army helicopters, saying the contract would only leave “leftovers” for Polish producers.
The outgoing government, beaten by the eurosceptic Law and Justice (PiS) party in national elections last month, signed a provisional deal with Airbus in April for 50 EC-725 Caracal multi-purpose machines, turning down offers from U.S. Sikorsky and AgustaWestland.
The $3 billion contract has yet to be signed and PiS has repeatedly said it would rather see the contact awarded to those who manufacture locally. Both Sikorsky and AgustaWestland have facilities in Poland.
“They only offer leftovers,” Witold Waszczykowski, deputy foreign minister in the previous government led by PiS, said of the proposed Airbus deal in an interview published by daily newspaper Rzeczpospolita.
“Almost half of the Caracals are to be assembled in France and of the rest, only 10 percent are to be completed in Poland.”
Though Waszczykowski spoke of the Caracals, the Airbus agreement may involve more than just those aircraft. So-called “offset” programmes are common in defence deals and involve the seller sourcing work in the country that is both related and unrelated to the equipment being purchased and may exceed the contract in value over time.
In a separate Rzeczpospolita article, however, the newspaper’s PiS source was quoted as saying that Poland will definitely not pay Airbus the previously agreed price.
“For us to consider signing the contract at all the French will have to increase their involvement in Poland’s defence industry,” said the source, who the paper said will have an influence on the final decision.
Waszczykowski added that Poland has to start to focus on its “national interests,” arguing that the country does not participate in key decisions taken by the European Union (EU), including those on migrants.
He said that the PiS government would fulfil Poland’s commitment to accept 7,000 refugees, adding that his party was surprised with Germany’s stance on the migration crisis.
“They are opening the door wide to their country, while we had to wait seven years after Poland entered the EU before Poles were allowed to work across the Oder river. So let them not teach us solidarity.”
Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko; Editing by Adrian Krajewski and David Goodman