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Wednesday, 9 January 2002

Meeting with the Diplomatic Corp

Your Excellency Archbishop, Excellencies Ambassadors, Mr. Speaker of the Sejm, Mr. Speaker of the Senate, Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ladies and Gentlemen. I am very happy to host this gathering at the seat of the President of the Republic of Poland. I would like to extend a warm welcome to you also on behalf of the First Lady, the Polish government, and the Polish people. Please accept our best wishes of a prosperous New Year, also to your families and relatives and the countries and nations that your represent. Thank you, Excellency, for your warm and friendly words and for the wishes for Poland on behalf of the entire Diplomatic Corps. Ladies and Gentlemen, On the threshold of the New Year, we usually look into the future. And that is what we are doing today with hope and courage. However, more than at any other moment in time, we are still living the events of last year that shocked us and struck a painful blow to the world. We still remember September 11 and everything that followed the Black Tuesday. After the tragedies in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, we will never be the same again. We all share the pain with America. We all felt attacked. The hearts of millions filled with fear and uncertainty. Terrorism has turned out to be a horrible, distorted face of globalization. Stemming from fanaticism, the will of destruction, and contempt for human life, terrorism has found its way to use modern technologies and to cross borders with ease. And, as such, it constitutes a deadly threat to us all. Our civilization, order, and peace, which have come under attack, must be effectively defended. The global coalition against terrorism has become the sign of our times, positively affecting transformations in the global distribution of power. And this is extremely reassuring. With humanity facing a common fundamental threat, human solidarity has prevailed over a combination of interests and intentions, over cultural differences, and over different historical experiences. This proves that the point of gravity of the world today is not in the conflict between civilizations, but in defending universal human values against violence and chaos. This also means that people across the world understand that terrorism must not be an object of political calculations. Terrorism cannot be “better” or “worse” depending on who it represents or against whom it is directed. Terrorism is inhuman. Evil must be eradicated down to its roots. From the very beginning, Poland, also as a member of NATO, has actively participated in the coalition against terrorism. We are prepared to participate in the military operation of the allies. The Polish troops are serving the cause of international peace with great commitment. Today, they are on missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, on the Golan Heights, and in other volatile regions. As a country that has been exceptionally severely tried by history, we recognize the fact that common security must sometimes be defended outside one’s own borders. On my initiative, Warsaw hosted a conference of seventeen countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans with nine observers from other countries and international organizations. The representatives attending the conference adopted a program of concrete steps against terrorism. Our fight with the well-developed engine of terror will be long and difficult, but I believe that we will achieve substantial progress in 2002. We must ponder the global situation after September 11, 2001. There is no justification for terrorism, and we must fight it. However, military action and the operations of intelligence and security services should not be the only response of the international community to the modern global threats. We must examine and understand fully the mechanisms of intolerance, fanaticism, and the spread of obsession to destroy and kill. We must change the way in which we approach and conduct politics in a world full of poverty and inequality, where only 20% of the population can share in prosperity and stability. We all know these problems. They are described in the UN Millennium Declaration. We also know what to do, but we are unable to effectively implement this knowledge. There are no immediate solutions in sight to the conflicts troubling many parts of the world, and especially the extremely complex conflict in the Middle East. One should also analyze the impact of globalization in the media, which often replicates a simplified, if not distorted, image of cultures and nations. We are living on the same planet in ever-greater proximity, but we still do not know one another and we still do not understand one another sufficiently well. Of great importance and urgency are the words of John Paul II from the Papal Address on the World Day of Peace: “There is no peace without justice, and there is no justice without forgiveness”. Justice and reconciliation constitute the simplest and the most revealing program for humanity today. The important meeting on January 24 of representatives of the religions of the world who will gather in Assisi to pray for peace will move the souls of billions of people. We admire and respect the efforts taken by His Holiness and the Vatican State to ease tension and instill the spirit of reconciliation and support for freedom and democratic transformations across the world. We recall the historic visits of the Holy Father to the countries of our region ten years after they regained independence. I would like to thank His Holiness and the Holy See for supporting Polish aspirations to membership in the European Union. At the beginning of the year, we repeat the invitation to our great compatriot to visit the Motherland. Ladies and Gentlemen, For Poland, two thousand and one was a difficult and demanding year. We lived through dramatic moments during the catastrophic floods. We took up complex economic problems. We greeted changes on the political scene. And, finally, we dealt with important historical anniversaries. On the sixtieth anniversary of the tragic events in Jedwabne, we honored the memory of the victims of the massacre. The anniversary stirred a great social debate, which made us look in the mirror of history. The Polish people managed to rise to a level of moral sensitivity that enables one to appreciate that the national heritage includes all the moments of history, both bright and gloomy. Convinced that only truth leads to catharsis and reconciliation, we begged for forgiveness for the past ills. I am convinced that this traumatic soul searching made us better and stronger. The parliamentary elections overshadowed other political events. The election results substantially changed the Polish political scene. Yet, our foreign policy remains stable and predictable, and its strategic objectives will be continued. This is guaranteed by the government of Prime Minister Leszek Miller and the parliamentary majority that supports the government together with substantial part of the opposition that accepts this approach. The new government is facing difficult challenges, of which the most important include the overhaul of the public finances, the streamlining of the state, and the closing of the negotiations with the European Union. Firm and, often, painful decisions are being taken. This year, we will have to make serious savings and sacrifice. However, we draw strength from the ability to realistically assess our weaknesses and strengths, given the sound fundamentals of the economy. GDP growth is sustained. Inflation is falling. And the current account deficit is clearly shrinking. Polish exports are growing, especially to the demanding EU market. We trust that, with global recovery, Poland’s economic situation will start to significantly improve already this year and in the coming years. The government is already working on a package of solutions that will benefit business people and investors, reduce unemployment, and stimulate economic activity in the regions. Poland is able and willing to get back on track toward fast economic growth. Ladies and Gentlemen, This year, we will face the final test that will crown our European aspirations. We are on the last straight leading to membership in the European Union. After years of efforts and preparations, the time for reaping the benefits is coming for Poland and the other candidate countries, as well as for the member states and the EU institutions. Two thousand and two has already become of symbolic importance to the twelve EU countries that on January 1 introduced the coins and banknotes of the single currency, the euro. I believe that this year will also go down in history as the year of closing negotiations with the first group of candidate countries. The important decisions to this end were taken by the European Council in Göteborg and in Laeken. We greet with satisfaction the adoption of a time frame for accession and the fact that Poland is among the ten countries that could join the European Union in 2004. I am convinced that the Spanish presidency, which is just beginning, will further accelerate the process. Progress in the talks on the most important issues, such as agriculture, regional policy, and finance, would enable us to close the negotiations in the second half of the year during the Danish presidency, so that in two years’ time, as a member state, Poland could participate in the elections to the European Parliament. I fully support the determination of the Polish government, wishing to finalize our preparations as soon and as efficiently as possible. The positive finale of the European enlargement is a question of political will and consistent efforts, but also a question of accurate information and public relations commitment. We should urgently present to our people the importance and the consequences of the enlargement of the European Union. As ambassadors of the member states, you also have a great role to play. Living and working in our country, you can communicate to the people of your countries a complete picture of Poland, the Polish people, our achievements, our transformations, and our successes. We must come together to contest stereotypes, fixed conceptions, simplifications, or lack of knowledge. The coming EU enlargement will change the face of Europe. It is important that the Europeans be aware and convinced that it will be a change for the better that will benefit them in the long term. In two months’ time, the constitutional convention will begin work on the future shape of the European Union. For the first time ever, representatives of the candidate countries and the member states will be discussing the shape of the enlarged Union. We feel jointly responsible for the fate of our continent, as it is our place on the globe. Poland favors a European Union that will combine transparent structures and the importance of democratic procedures with efficiency. We have faith in the creative strength of the Union, which is able to ensure peace and prosperity on the European continent. The uniting Europe is a response to the challenges of the twenty-first century. It is needed by the entire international community, which seeks dialog and cooperation. Ladies and Gentlemen, In 2002, important decisions will be taken concerning security architecture in the Euro-Atlantic area. It is expected that more countries of Central and Eastern Europe, including our neighbors, will be invited to join NATO. As a member of the Alliance, Poland strongly and consistently supports such a move. It will be the next step on the road to eliminating the post-Yalta divisions and strengthening European stability. The threat of terrorism against which we need to build the widest possible alliance lends even greater support to the idea of NATO enlargement today and in the future. We welcome the strengthening of cooperation between NATO and Russia. It is an important factor in European and in global security. As a member of the Alliance and Russia’s neighbor, Poland particularly favors the growing cooperation, which is so important for the evolution of relations between the West and the East. Ladies and Gentlemen, Poland is greatly satisfied to enter the new century among so many countries that are our allies, partners, and friends. After all, one is judged by one’s friends and partners. Poland would like to thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen, for everything we receive from your countries and nations. Last year’s visit to Poland of the President of the United States, George W. Bush, was an important event in the Polish-American relations. We are growing more and more convinced that Poland and the United States are allies and partners that can always count on each other. We hold the same conviction with respect to bilateral cooperation with Germany, our largest economic partner, close neighbor and ally, and the friendly France and with respect to cooperation in the framework of the Weimar Triangle. We expect that the results of this year’s elections in both countries will confirm their commitment to the enlargement and strengthening of European integration. We enjoy ties of traditional friendship with Great Britain. This relationship combines historical symbols with outstanding modern achievements. We also intend to continue to develop favorable relations with Italy and Spain. We will strengthen our close ties with the Benelux countries, the Nordic countries, and the countries of the Mediterranean. We would like to widen relations with all the other Western European partners and Canada. Located centrally in Europe, Poland attaches great importance to the fate of its region. We feel jointly responsible for the region’s security, development, and prosperity. Ties of friendship and good neighborly relations with our neighbors cannot be overestimated. Our achievements in the relations with Germany can serve as a model of reconciliation and cooperation. We also have very close ties with the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. We continue to value our cooperation in the framework of the Visegrad Group. We also value our partnership in cooperation with Lithuania and the other Baltic states, Latvia and Estonia. We have also seen that trust and closer cooperation is beginning to shape our relations with Russia. We look forward to the visit of the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, to Poland in a week’s time, a visit which brings hope for a new chapter in the Polish-Russian relations. We will continue to develop cooperation with Ukraine and support its pro-European and integration aspirations. We also count on a revival of mutually beneficial relations with Belarus. Based on the past and the present of Central Europe, we feel a sense of community with Slovenia, Croatia (which is undergoing democratic transformations), Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and the other Balkan countries. We sympathize with all the countries of Eastern Europe that are taking up the challenge of transformation. We highly value the development of relations with Turkey, our partner in NATO and an important country at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Poland is looking out to the world, also outside our home, Europe. We are interested in developing ever closer cooperation with the countries of Asia, and especially with China, Japan, India, Pakistan, Korea, and the ASEAN countries. We greeted China’s accession to the WTO as an act of global importance that is exceptionally vital for international cooperation. Poland also has many historical ties with the countries of Transcaucasia. New prospects for cooperation are developing. Last year, I paid visits to Georgia and Azerbaijan that I recall with pleasure. We welcomed the formation of the interim government in Afghanistan. We wish peaceful development and stability to the Afghan nation. Poland has declared its intention to participate within its means in the international program for the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Two thousand and one witnessed a rise in the international importance of the countries of Ce
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