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Airbus, France furious as Poland scraps helicopter deal

Airbus's Caracal helicopters on an exercise this year AFP

French-based aircraft-maker Airbus has slammed the Polish government over the cancellation of a three-billion-euro contract for military helicopters. President François Hollande has cancelled a visit to Warsaw Thursday over the row.

"Never have we been treated by any government customer the way this government has treated us," Airbus chief executive Tom Enders said in a statement Tuesday.

Poland's Eurosceptic government has scrapped a deal, worth an estimated 3.1 billion euros, to buy 70 of Airbus's Caracal helicopters and said it would buy at least 21 Black Hawks from the European planemaker's US rival Lockheed Martin.

Enders accused Warsaw of "controversial and contradictory" declarations that "created the impression of unprecedented confusion".

"Airbus wanted to invest in Poland big time and we wanted to contribute to building a competitive aerospace industry in this country," his statement said. "But the Polish government slammed the door on us. We take note of this."

Offset package

Also on Tuesday, Airbus Helicopters boss Guillaume Faury sent an open letter to Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo rejecting the reasons given for picking Lockheed over Airbus and ministers' claims that the choice was motivated by national security considerations.

Polish Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz on Saturday claimed that it was not the Polish side that broke off the negotiations, saying there was failure to agree on the "offset package", arrangements by which the supplier agrees that some or all of the production will take place in the purchasing country or places orders with companies there.

Airbus claims to have made unprecedented concessions, including a pledge to create 3,800 jobs in Poland, even though that meant stretching European single market rules.

Lockheed already has a factory in Poland.

Airbus also says that when a draft deal was agreed in 2015 the Polish government pushed for extremely rapid delivery, obliging it to invest millions before the final contract had been signed, and is planning legal action to obtain compensation.

Hollande calls off Warsaw trip

The French government, which has an 11 percent share in Airbus, has also reacted angrily.

Hollande called off Thursday's planned visit to Warsaw when the cancellation was announced and Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who scrapped a visit scheduled for Monday, has threatened to cut back military cooperation deals that were stepped up when Poland appealed for support in the light of Russia's annexation of Crimea and tensions in Ukraine.

The speed with which the switch to Lockheed was announced has led the Polish opposition to claim that secret negotiations had already started and demand a parliamentary inquiry into the awarding of weapons contracts.

Eurosceptic government worries France, Germany

The right-wing Law and Justice Party (PiS) made no secret of its opposition to the Airbus deal ahead of its election victory last October, even accusing the then ruling Civic Platform of corruption.

In his letter, Faury accused ministers of changing the rules during negotiations with the intention of sabotaging the deal.

Germany, like France, is suspicious of the Eurosceptic PiS, which has fanned nationalist sentiment, taken control of state-run media and moved to ban abortion before being forced to back down by women's protests.