T H E I N T E R-WA R Y E A R S

Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas (Paribas), a forerunner of BNP Paribas, and Société Générale de Belgique, one of the ancestors of BNP Paribas Fortis, were both highly active in Poland in the inter-war years.

Moves by Société Générale de Belgique and Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas to develop business in Poland were part of an overall expansion initiative in Eastern Europe under- taken by the two financial institutions. In addition to Poland, the two banks also estab- lished themselves in Romania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. This eastward push by Paribas and SGB arose from a wider determination in both France and Belgium to develop commercial and industrial relations with the sovereign countries that emerged from the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

There were two main reasons for these moves by both French and Belgian interests to establish a strong economic presence in Poland. Firstly, they were intended as a response to the new situation created by the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. For several years, in expectation of the imminent collapse of the new regime, industrialists were preparing to go in and reconquer Russian markets, a plan for which a strong business presence in Poland would arguably provide a useful springboard. Secondly, there was a conscious intent, clearly expressed by the French government, to replace the economic and political influence of Germany in Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

Meanwhile Société Générale de Belgique was especially concerned that major German banks, which before the war had a strong hand in financing Poland s import-export trade, would make a comeback.

Accordingly, both Paribas and SGB made investments in Poland s banking sector but they also took on a wider role, acquiring stakes in a number of manufacturing and trading companies in the country.ŚREDNIOWIECZNA CYTADELA WZNOSZĄCA

SIĘ PONAD WODĄ - KRAKÓW, POLSKA

A MEDIEVAL CITADEL, WALLED CITY AND FORTRESS

RISE ABOVE A WATERWAY - KRAKOW, POLAND

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