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Polish EU presidency hires top PR firm

  • The current Polish government of Donald Tusk is keen to put aside memories of the Kaczynski twns (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

The Polish administration has hired PR firm Burson-Marsteller to help it run its EU presidency later this year in a contract worth €1 million.

A Warsaw-based Polish spokesman, Konrad Niklewicz, told this website the deal was signed "a few days ago." Work is to start immediately, in the run-up to the presidency launch in July, and to last into early 2012.

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The Brussels and Warsaw branches of the US-based PR company will train Polish press spokespeople, set up the presidency website, carry out worldwide media monitoring, organise study trips to Poland for foreign journalists, put on social and cultural events and encourage MEPs to get behind presidency priorities.

Niklewicz said Burson-Marsteller will not be doing any pro-Polish media spin.

"In terms of contact with journalists, they will help us with training and logistics. But in terms of the content, the substance of what we say to journalists, this will be our own responsibility," he explained. "It's normal to seek professional help with these types of things. It doesn't mean we lack the skills ourselves. On the contrary, it means we want to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible."

Polish diplomats are wary of their lack of experience in the field of crisis management communications and of anti-eastern-European snobbery among colleagues from older EU member states.

Poland also has a lingering image problem dating back to the germanophobe, eurosceptic and russophobe rhetoric of the Kaczynski-twin government in 2006 and 2007.

"Poland is now seen as one of the most active and committed countries in the EU. Out of all the member states, Poles are among the most enthusiastic about European integration. This is the message that we want to base our presidency on," Niklewicz said.

"Poland's reputation has changed. I think the constructive politics of Prime Minister Tusk, his attempts to create a positive dialogue with Russia, has had an effect. We're seen differently now, not just in Brussels, but in London, Paris and Berlin as well."

Niklewicz noted that the Burson-Marsteller fee will actually be paid out of the EU budget. The cash comes from so-called 'counterpart funds' given to Warsaw when it joined the Union in 2004 and earmarked early on for its turn at the EU helm.

Warsaw's own presidency budget of around €110 million will also pay for more than 100 extra staff to be sent to the Polish EU embassy when it opens its new premises near the Schuman roundabout in the heart of the EU quarter on 23 May.

Burson-Marsteller is one of the top three lobby firms in the EU capital, with a turnover of around €10 million.

In terms of Polish-Russian relations, it also works for Russian oligarch-turned-dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky to raise awareness in the EU institutions of Russian human rights abuses. Other clients include Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, an ally of Russia-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

A contact in the PR sector in Brussels said Burson-Marsteller was keen to get involved with Warsaw to boost its reputation as the company of choice of a presidency country.

Correction: this article was updated at 3pm Brussels time on 20 April, following new information that the Bruegel think-tank is not being paid by the Polish presidency

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