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Wednesday, 21 November 2001

Official visit to the Republic of Austria - President Aleksander Kwasniewski delivered address at the Bruno Kreisky...

On November 21st 2001 during the second day of his official visit to Republic of Austria President of the Republic of Poland Aleksander Kwasniewski appeared at the `Bruno Kreisky Forum for the International Dialogue`. President Kwasniewski delivered the following address: I am honoured to discuss the project of the European Union enlargement with such distinguished personalities gathered here, at the Bruno Kreisky Forum on International Dialogue. The activities of the Forum promoting debates on the global issues and problems of our time are the best tribute to Chancellor Bruno Kreisky - an Austrian statesman whose immense contribution to international peace, human rights, tolerance and dialogue of cultures is widely known and admired. More than twenty years ago Chancellor Kreisky said: "There will be no Europe until we realise that it is everywhere, to the east and to the west, as well as in the centre". Now we have a unique opportunity to make these words a reality by putting an ultimate end to political, economic, social and psychological barriers that used to divide our continent for more than 50 years. The European integration project is a grand task of our generation and it depends on all of us: politicians, opinion makers, business circles and NGOs whether this process will be pursued with due speed, determination and conviction. The forthcoming accession of several countries will change Europe and I am convinced that it will be a change for the better. After the tragic events of 11 September the political arguments in favour of the EU enlargement have taken a fresh relevance. In the most painful way we have been reminded that to safeguard stability, well-being and peace is a task that no single state, no institution, no nation can carry out alone. Therefore the best response to the threats of terrorism and organised crime should be to accelerate the European integration process both as regards the European Union and NATO. Enlargement is the most effective way of upholding our shared values across the continent. It means that Europe is becoming a truly united continent where all of us enjoy security and development. But at the same time we also bear co-responsibility for our future and share a risk of standing against threats related to either one community, state, region, or the whole world. This was a central message of the Heads of State of Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe who, upon my invitation, gathered in November at the Conference on Combating Terrorism at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw. The accession process has moved beyond the point of no return. We have all put a lot of effort to make it a success. However, determination has to be preserved until the very end, until the last minute of negotiations. We have already managed to take important decisions giving the enlargement process a significant push ahead: Helsinki, Nice, Gothenburg are now more than geographical names to us. Yet still a lot remains to be done. We are now entering the final phase of negotiations. Their further progress is therefore determined by the ability and readiness of both sides to work out mutually satisfactory solutions. At the current stage it is of key importance that the negotiations be both flexible and result-oriented. Recently adopted European Strategy of the Government demonstrates that Poland is determined to close negotiations by the end of 2002 even if it involves taking difficult and courageous political decisions. A similarly flexible and open approach is also indispensable on the European Union side. It is my sincere belief that flexibility, common sense and strong political commitment on both sides of the table will make it possible to conclude the accession talks with a result that will meet our mutual expectations. To carry out this task is ever more challenging, as the quality of the process must be reconciled with its speed. Poland`s top priority remains to conclude the negotiations by the end of 2002 which will make it possible to accede to the European Union in the first wave of candidates in the year 2004. I welcome the fact that the recent Regular Reports published by the European Commission noted solid progress in Poland`s preparations for membership. We believe the December European Council to be held in Laeken must provide further impetus to the accession process. The European Union is facing enormous tasks such as enlargement, reform of its institutions, introduction of the euro and strengthening its role on the international arena. Yet at the same time it has been suffering from the lack of public support and involvement. Too many of European citizens regard Europe as an abstract, distant and complex phenomenon. The sceptical attitude of the Member States` public opinions towards enlargement should be seen in a wider context of the EU lacking communication with its citizens. To come to terms with this problem remains one of our greatest and hardest tasks. The successful completion of the enlargement process will not be possible unless we make a greater effort to widely communicate its importance and advantages to the public opinion. An extraordinary chapter in the history of Europe is being written and our citizens need to understand its significance, first and foremost its practical benefits. The facts and arguments are there. The results of numerous economic studies are crystal clear: all partners will gain long term economic benefits from closer co-operation within the enlarged Union. We need to convey this message to the public, to talk to people and explain that both for the current and future Member States the enlargement will be good in terms of economic growth, job creation, higher environmental standards, cultural diversity. We will not succeed if the exaggerated fears and stereotypes dominate the public debates on the forthcoming enlargement. We must do more in this field: effectively combat stereotypes, show the costs and consequences of delaying enlargement. We must pave the way to firmly anchor the integration project among our citizens. Discussing these issues here, in Austria is of particular significance. Sharing borders with 4 candidate countries, developing dense network of economic, social and cultural relations with Central and Eastern Europe, Austria is one of a few current Member States which will experience the biggest impact of the enlargement process. The 1260 kilometres long Austrian border with the candidate countries must be seen in terms of new opportunities and challenges, and not as a source of threats, disquiet and conflicts. To this end we must get involved more actively in encouraging every day contacts of our citizens and enhancing regional cross-border co-operation. We need to get to know each other better and become aware that we share the same common goal of building a strong, stable and friendly Europe no matter whether living in Styria, Burgenland, Moravia or Silesia. Having said that I would like to stress that advancing European integration does not mean weakening an active regional co-operation. On the contrary, in my view these two processes are complementary and for the sake of their best quality they should go hand-in-hand. Such initiatives as Regional Partnership inspired by Austria are a useful forum for exchanging experience and enhancing dialogue of the partners that will soon become members of the community based on the same values and principles. At the same time, regional co-operation should encourage us to build a solid co-operation with our Eastern neighbours to promote the idea of an open Europe, to share the economic benefits of enlargement as well as to tackle shared common concerns of organised crime, environment and terrorism. From the outset of the accession process Poland has been ever more closely involved in the European Union policies both as regards their present and future functioning. Upon accession we will be a responsible and competent Member State making a valid contribution to a strong and efficient Community. We have been taking an active part in the current debate on the future of the European Union. Next year for the first time in history the representatives of both future and present Member States will form a Convention which is to prepare the next Intergovernmental Conference on the EU reforms. Poland has expressed its full support as regards the developments within the Common Foreign and Security Policy as well as the process of building up the European Security and Defence Policy. In an immediate response to the EU actions against terrorism we aligned ourselves with the positions of the European Union in common fight against international terrorism. To this end we have also demonstrated our willingness to be closely involved in the establishment and development of the European area of freedom, justice and security. The aim is to further enhance an effective joint work as regards fight against organised crime, drug trafficking and terrorism as well as to develop direct co-operation and prepare the candidates to future functioning within the Schengen system. All these developments prove that enlargement will enhance the future European Union and involve the countries that are well aware of both their rights and obligations resulting from the accession. Ladies and Gentlemen! The world is not standing still and if the Union is to succeed it must continue to grow and develop in terms of number, institutional capacity, its international role as well as its relevance to the lives of the people. Behind us there is a decade of changes that nobody would have dreamt of 15 years ago. Therefore we must not be shy considering the challenges this decade will bring. One of such immediate tasks is the successful conclusion of the process of re-unifying Europe. The developments of the next 13 months will be of vital importance for the future of this project. I am convinced that Poland will make every effort to manage the enlargement process effectively while the current Member States will be also deeply committed to this task and confirm in practice the fundamental principle of European solidarity. It will guarantee that the content of the final product - the Accession Treaty - will stand up to our ambitions and aspirations by ensuring political stability, accelerated economic growth and strengthening the Union`s position on the international political scene. I am convinced that as a result of our joint efforts the end result of the accession process will be of the very best quality and will give us all reasons for pride and satisfaction.
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