Belarusian border crisis hits local Polish companies | Business | Economic and financial news from a German point of view | DW
Few people realize that there is an ancient Muslim community living in Poland. Mainly earning a living from tourism, this community of Tartars, with its two mosques in the far northeast of Poland near the border with Belarus, suffered from the state of emergency imposed by Warsaw.
Poland has extended by 60 days the 30-day state of emergency imposed in early September on a 3-kilometer-wide strip along the border with Belarus. Non-resident civilians are now prohibited from visiting the region. The Polish government said the move was aimed at reducing the number of “irregular crossings” – ie migrants mainly from the Middle East sent to the border by Belarusian authorities.
“It is an irony of this cruel situation at the border that many people entering Poland are also Muslims,” says Artem Graban, migration specialist at the Polityka Insight think tank in Warsaw.
One of the mosques, in the village of Kruszyniany, is in the no-go zone created by the Polish government in an attempt to stem the growing number of migrants crossing the border from Belarus. The village of traditional wooden houses in an idyllic rural setting is effectively cut off from the rest of Poland.
“Tourists cannot come here and the income they derive from it seriously compromises the livelihoods of the local population,” Graban explains.
In the other mosque, in the village of Bohoniki, a few kilometers from Kruszyniany, tourism is still nominally open for business, but things are slowing down. A local restaurateur DW spoke to during a visit there on October 4 said his revenue had fallen 75% since the declaration of a state of emergency in September. “We are collecting things for these poor people, clothes and food, blankets, but we are also suffering financially due to the decrease in the number of tourists,” he told DW.
Dorota Kowalska is another local businesswoman. She runs the Siosa Budy guesthouse and restaurant in the small village of Budy about three miles from the no-go zone. She says many tourists from Western Europe have canceled their reservations.
“I have another business in Warsaw, so I can cover some of these losses, but a lot of other people here don’t,” she says.
Budy, a long village made up largely of traditional wooden houses, is empty, its three restaurants and guesthouses closed. A local man tells us the season is ending, but he’s never seen it so calm, especially since the weather is unusually hot.
“Agritourism has been hit very hard,” Jarmila Rybicka, an activist working on the edge of the border area, told DW. “Many local farmers and agritourism businessmen want to help migrants, mainly because they are good people, but also because what has happened here is bad for business,” she says.
“The border area is exceptionally quiet,” says Graban. “After COVID, now this. It made cross-border trade difficult and tourism at a standstill,” he adds.
Remuneration too low
On Friday, September 17, the Polish parliament adopted a law on compensation for companies in places where the state of emergency is in force. It is aimed at businesses in the tourism and catering sector, as well as operators of agrotourism operations.
Companies will be able to claim compensation of 65% of the average monthly income they achieved during the three months preceding the state of emergency, that is to say in June, July and August. Previously, the parliamentary committee on the economy had recommended increasing this support to 80%.
“The authorities did not care about 3 million zlotys ($ 800,000, € 730,000) to pay 80% fair compensation to all victims. But thanks to our pressure, this law is better than the one proposed by the government. “Robert Tyszkiewicz, opposition member of the Civic Coalition (KO), told reporters in Warsaw.
In addition, compensation proposals for tourist transport companies, grocery stores and souvenir shops have been abandoned, as has support for companies in the culture, entertainment and leisure sectors. The Tri-Cultures Festival in Wlodawa and the Pop-Up City Festival in Terespol both had to be canceled.
“I will find it difficult for contractors operating in a state of emergency to recover from state compensation for losses caused by this scheme,” Graban explains.
Budy in northeastern Poland is only a few kilometers from the Belarusian border and has suffered from the tourism collapse
Closed borders hurt businesses
A study by Arkadiusz Malkowski of the West Pomeranian University of Technology in Szczecin shows that up to 83.6% of Belarusians crossing the border indicated shopping as a goal of their visit.
Up to 30% of businesses in Polish border towns polled by Malkowski said foreigners made up up to 40% of their customers, and 89% of local governments in border areas said border trade and border tourism were the most important factors. more important to them.
By far the largest percentage of spending in the border area came from Belarusian citizens. In the area up to 50 kilometers from the border, Malkowski’s research has shown that border trade with Belarus is worth more than 2.3 billion zlotys per year for Polish companies.
Jacek Danieluk, the mayor of Terespol, a town near the border with Belarus, told DW. that the lack of cross-border visitors from Belarus was hurting local businesses. “The numbers are down to about 10% of what they were before the crisis. But we have great friends across the border and they will be back, I’m sure.” he said, adding that he did not believe the people at the border were refugees, but what he called “economic migrants”.