Euro 2012 – Ukraine and Poland

October 4, 2007

Unusual Unity on Euro 2012 Law

Filed under: Poland — Ivan @ 11:36 pm

President Lech Kaczynski Sept. 19 signed a special law that should constitute the legal basis for the Euro 2012 football championships to be played in Poland. The momentousness of the event is evident not only from the speed at which the law was approved by both houses of parliament and signed by the president (just over two weeks) but also from the fact that, in a period of huge political bickering, the law was passed by 410 votes in favor with only two abstentions.There can be no doubt that, in view of the deadlines imposed by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), combined with the current state of Polish infrastructure (stadiums, roads and railways), extremely swift action is required. However, a little more reflection might have been appropriate.

One thing that becomes clear from reading the law is that the government is intending to organize the whole thing itself using only public funds. Although the law does “not exclude” a public-private partnership (PPP), the gist of the law is plain. This means that all funds for Euro 2012 will have to be spent on the basis of public procurement law, which is where one of the problems arises.

Under the Euro 2012 law, special-purpose companies will be set up by the Treasury or by local authorities. Article 21 of this law states that article 5 of the Public Procurement Act will apply to “agreements concluded” by such companies. Article 5 provides a simplified procedure for government bodies and state-owned companies to contract, among other things, sport-related “services.” First of all, the wording of article 21, when referring to “concluded contracts,” does not make it clear when this article 5 procedure can be used. Assuming that the lawmakers’ intention was to say “contracts to be concluded,” it is doubtful whether sport-related “services” can be stretched to include the construction of stadiums, let alone freeways and railways. If not, article 21 risks being in breach of European law.

Under the Euro 2012 law, administrative procedures for the construction process have been greatly simplified, for example by shorter deadlines being introduced for administrative decisions, including deadlines in appeals before administrative courts, and a prohibition on construction being held up once it has been in progress for at least 14 days. This could actually be a major step forward, considering how avaricious neighbors and overzealous environmentalists have in the past been able to hold up construction projects.

Expropriation procedures for the purpose of Euro 2012 have also been simplified, providing for a seven-day period during which appeals have to be lodged and a two-week period during which the authorities have to rule on the appeal. At first this may seem another logical step forward, but it does provoke the question whether this is fair (or constitutional) as regards the farmer who ends up with a freeway running through his front garden…

The unprecedented unity in the Polish parliament can only be admired and the general idea behind the law is to be applauded, as it was clear to everyone that, with the existing red tape and lengthy procedures surrounding construction work, it would have been impossible to meet the UEFA deadlines. However, maybe certain members of the parliamentary opposition should have been slightly more critical about the details of the law instead of voting with the election in mind. They should have remembered the famous words of Oscar Wilde: “Whenever people agree with me I always feel I must be wrong.” Let us hope that after the election, the new parliament will be able to make some much-needed amendments.

Lech Zyzylewski, Remco Van der Kroft, Partners at Domanski Zakrzewski Palinka

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