Wroclaw - big ambitions in a dynamic region of Poland
Wroclaw in south-western Poland is one of the country's most dynamic cities. It's attracting major international companies and it has big ambitions to raise its profile. It will host EURO 2012 football championship matches and it's also in the race to host the EXPO Exhibition in the same year. Insight Central Europe took a look at what's happening in the Wroclaw region in the run-up to these events.
During the city's recent promotional event in Paris, Wroclaw's bid to host EXPO was given the support of one of the best known Poles, former president Lech Walesa. Thanks to a TV link-up, tens of thousands of Wroclaw residents were in jubilant mood, following the event on the huge screens.
In no other Polish city can one sense a mood of local patriotism comparable to that in Wroclaw, the fourth largest city in Poland, with a population of 650 thousand inhabitants and the picturesque location at the foot of the Sudety Mountains and on the banks of River Odra. Bohdan Jung of the Warsaw School of Economics, an advisor to the Wroclaw City Council's EXPO task force, explains the unique character of the town.
On the one hand, it's a city that's been entirely resettled. It's got a new population after World War Two. On the other hand, there's this historical heritage from Germany days. Earlier back in history, this place was overrun by Austrians, Czechs, by Poles and Germans, so it's a melting pot of cultures. The people who arrived in Wroclaw were largely resettled from Poland's eastern lands that were taken over by the Soviet Union after World War Two so they brought this sort of Eastern spirit into was by infrastructure a German city. This is a curious mix.'
Wroclaw is one of the most dynamically developing cities in the whole of Central Europe. In recent years it has attracted such companies as Siemens, Phillips, Volvo and Hewlett Packard. Why did they all come to Wroclaw? Bohdan Jung again.
"Because it's a very young culture of relatively educated young people so the labour force is there and it's a well educated labour force that is not terribly expensive by EU standards. I also wouldn't underplay the importance of the human factor. There's some continuity in the local government. It's a place which is relatively free of political conflict and what I've seen in case of the EXPO is that all political parties work together around a certain goal - just getting the EXPO."
With its location in the heart of Europe and enjoying a strong international position, Wroclaw seems to stand a good chance to win the race. British journalist Duncan Rhodes who edits a website Wroclaw-life.com. is confident that the city will not miss the chance.
The city authorities have recently launched a 'Come and settle in Wroclaw' campaign. It is targeted at those Poles who, in recent years, emigrated to EU countries such as Britain and Ireland in search of better opportunities. But there are also those who left Wroclaw for the capital of Warsaw some years ago and now think of going back. Agata Baran works in an investment bank.
"Five years ago there were not many opportunities for me. Now they're rising. Companies are coming. They're setting up their subsidiaries in Wroclaw more and more and even central headquarters. And so as soon as I've had enough experience and as soon as I've spotted some interesting opportunities in Wroclaw I would definitely go back and when I have kids they will be raised in Wroclaw because it's the best place to raise kids."
Hopefully, back in her home town by 2012, Agata will be able to take her children to see the EXPO Exhibition. In its bid to host the event, Wroclaw competes with Tangiers in Morocco and Yeosu in South Korea. A final decision will be taken by representatives of 98 member states of the International Bureau of Exhibitions in November.