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Polish Tourism Industry Seeking to Attract French Visitors

France's rejection of the European constitution last month resulted in an unusual scapegoat: Polish plumbers. Anti-constitution campaigners warned the charter would bring an influx of Polish and other low priced Eastern European labor to France.

It seems odd that Poland's official tourist office in Paris would take up the cause of its native plumbers. But that, essentially, is what its new promotion campaign is all about.

Featured on the office's Internet sight is a picture of a good looking, blond-haired Pole dressed in plumbers togs, with a hose wrapped around his chest. He is flanked by images of historic Polish cities. The tagline reads: "I m staying in Poland: You are welcome to come."

But that is only part of the message, explains tourist office spokeswoman Elzbieta Janik.

Ms. Janik says obviously the Internet advertisement is a veiled reference to what she describes as a slanderous campaign against Poland. The campaign in question took place during the weeks leading up to the French vote on the European constitution on May 29.

Polish plumbers working in France, where they allegedly underprice their French counterparts, were considered symbols of what was to come if the European constitution was passed: That is, a flood of cheap labor from new European Union member states.

France is not the only Western European country slighting Polish immigrants. In neighboring Germany, farm and construction workers from Poland and other Eastern European countries have also been blamed for stealing German jobs.

But in France, the tourist board's campaign appears to be having an effect.

Ms. Janik says since it was launched last week, the plumber promotion campaign has sparked a deluge of positive responses by e-mail and by phone. She said many of the respondents congratulated the Polish tourist office for its sense of humor and courage for taking a stance.

Besides plumbers, the campaign is also promoting tourism in Poland. But Ms. Janik says its too early to say whether it will bring a spike of French visitors to her native country this summer.