WARSAW (Reuters) - Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Tuesday Poland would not bow to political pressure over bills from foreign construction firms of about 10 billion zlotys (2 billion pounds) for work carried out under an EU-backed road-building programme.
Tusk said he was "not impressed" by a letter from the ambassadors of Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and Portugal urging Poland to explain why roads agency GDDKiA had not paid the firms what they say they are owed.
GDDKiA says it is the contractors that are at fault, but the dispute risks harming Warsaw's reputation in Brussels, which is pumping huge sums into Polish roads and railways.
"This letter has not impressed me much," Tusk told a news conference, referring to the letter seen by Reuters and addressed to Polish Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Janusz Piechocinski. "There is no reason for GDDKiA to make concessions in the face of political pressure," Tusk said.
It was the first time the EU governments had formally joined forces in the dispute, raising diplomatic pressure on Warsaw.
The letter said the unpaid money pointed to fundamental and systemic problems in the way Poland manages big civil engineering projects.
The letter called the sum owed "unusual and unprecedented" and it asked Piechocinski to look into the matter.
Firms that have been in dispute with the Polish road agency over payments include Austria's Strabag and Alpine Bau, a unit of Germany's Bilfinger, Ireland's SIAC, SISK and Roadbridge, and a unit of Spain's Ferrovial.
Reporting by Adrian Krajewski; Editing by Louise Ireland