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Thursday, 11 May 2000

PRESIDENT IN ICELAND

On May 11 President of the Republic of Poland, Aleksander Kwasniewski with his spouse began the official visit to the Republic of Iceland. After the official welcoming ceremony President Aleksander Kwasniewski met President of the Republic of Iceland, Olafur Grimsson. Next presidents attended the Polish and Turkish delegation`s plenary session. "We discussed about NATO, about its future. I am convinced - President Aleksander Kwasniewski said during the press-conference - that Polish and Icelandic points of view are similar. In the Euro-Atlantic alliance we need to make an European pillar stronger, but not weakening an American pillar at the same time". Answering the questions President Aleksander Kwasniewski underlined that the volume mutual economic co-operation between Poland and Iceland is satisfactory. After the visit in Parliament, both presidents took part at the Polish-Icelandic Economic Seminar in the Icelandic Chamber of Commerce. During the meeting President Aleksander Kwasniewski said: "I take great pleasure in being able to take part in today`s meeting with representatives of the business communities of Iceland and Poland, organised by the Icelandic Chamber of Commerce. I regard our meeting today as extremely important not only with a view to the prospects of Polish-Icelandic economic co-operation, but also because of the traditionally good Polish-Icelandic bilateral relations and the bonds of friendship linking our two countries and nations. Poland in the year 2000 is a stable, rapidly developing country that is actively striving for European Union membership. When we first launched Poland`s transformation process in 1989 we did not realise the enormity of the tasks we would face. The `round table` compromise achieved in Poland has become a universal symbol of the understanding reached between the political authorities and the democratic opposition in order to improve the situation of the state and carry out economic reforms. I consider our 11-year period of reforms, especially the process of economic transformation, to be a success. During that period we not only succeeded in ridding ourselves of all the fundamental attributes of a centrally planned economy but also in changing the entire philosophy of conducting economic activities. The Polish economy became an open economy. Foreign-trade turnover is approaching the level of 50% of GDP, and that constitutes a radical change compared with the past. Our foreign trade has undergone re-orientation so that the European Union is now the biggest collective trading partner. We were the first state of our region to achieve and clearly exceed the GDP level of 1989. The internal structure of the Polish economy has also changed. We have observed a dramatic growth of the private sector which is dominated by newly created small and mid-sized businesses and for the past few years has become the `locomotive of development`. We are also open to foreign investments whose total value is expected to exceed $40 billion this year. We have liberalised our currency laws, and our financial market is now subject to the same regulations as in OECD states. The latest example of the Polish economy`s successful liberalisation is the flotation of our currency. Our goal is not only to join the European Union but to enter the euro zone as well. The 21st century will not only be the century of computers and the Internet. It will also witness the intensification of the processes of globalising and deepening economic co-operation. Those processes, however, have triggered public controversy, an example of which were the recent demonstrations by opponents in Seattle and Washington. But opponents of globalisation do not seem to be taking into account a number of benefits that process provides the economically less developed countries. In a number of countries direct foreign investments -- the most tangible example of liberalised world economic relations -- have helped raise the economic growth rate. That has occurred through intensification of foreign trade and the increased pro-export orientation of the economy of the country receiving foreign investors. Of course there exist a number of negative examples such as the emergence of the currency crisis on. But they stemmed to a far greater extent from the voluntarism and non-transparency of a given country`s economic policy rather than being the result of liberalised world trade. In my conviction one should therefore speak out clearly in favour of globalisation processes. Mutual, partner-like co-operation between countries and nations -- especially multilaterally advantageous trade -- not only helps to raise the living standards of mankind as a whole but also considerably reduces the risk of bilateral and regional conflicts and improves inter-state relations. Poland and Iceland have at their disposal an extensive, hitherto untapped potential for mutual economic co-operation. One cannot regard as satisfactory the 1999 volume of two-way trade amounting to a mere $22 million, nor the fact that Poland`s share in Iceland`s exports came to a scant 0. 2 percent and in imports -- barely one percent. I believe we should deepen those fields of mutual co-operation that largely stem from bilateral geographic considerations and traditions of economic relations. I believe the main future area of co-operation between out two countries to be the broadly conceived realm of maritime economy. That could encompass both the repair of fishing boats and fish processing. Iceland remains one of Poland`s main suppliers of fish and processed fish products which last year accounted for more than 35 percent of the value of Poland`s imports from Iceland. One common Polish-Icelandic economic initiative could involve the processing in Poland of raw Icelandic fish for the purpose of selling the resultant products on the markets of the European Union or Eastern Europe. The ProRyb fish-processing works of Gdynia, visited last year by Government Minister Mr H. Agrimsson, is interested in co-operation of that sort. One area of mutual co-operation could be the capital and technological involvement of Icelandic partners in Poland`s fish-processing enterprises. Especially good prospects exist in my view for co-operation between Poland`s ship-building industry, especially ship-repair yards, with Icelandic fishermen. In that area there exist considerable reserves involving on the one hand -- the Icelandic fishing industry`s repair, modernisation and development needs, and on the other -- the untapped potential of Polish shipyards. Co-operation in that field has a long-standing tradition and constitutes one of the most important elements of our two-way trade. Of course, I should also like to encourage our Icelandic partners to buy from my country increasing quantities of our traditional export goods. These include various food products, fruits, vegetables, coal and confectionery items, of which I shall only mention the now nearly symbolic Prince Polo wafer bars which have been known in Iceland for years. To conclude, I should like to emphasise the good climate and long-standing traditions of economic co-operation that have existed between Poland and Iceland. This has undoubtedly been fostered by the treaty concluded by Poland and the EFTA countries which ensures convenient conditions for the development of trade and co-operation. For our part, in our mutual co-operation we have observed no problems in the implementation of that treaty. I therefore look with optimism to the prospects of economic co-operation opening before our two countries. I wish you every success in your business activities. At the same time, I am convinced that today`s seminar will considerably contribute to the further development of partner-like co-operation and impart a new dimension to the traditionally friendly relations that have linked our two nations for years. In the afternoon, the President of the Republic of Poland made a speech at parliament in the presence of the President of Iceland and met with Speaker H. Bloendal. After ending the visit to parliament, Aleksander Kwasniewski and Olafur Grimsson took part in an economic seminar.
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