19 października 2001
On October 20, 2001, the President of the Republic of Poland attended the inauguration of the Senate of the Republic of Poland of the fifth term. During the ceremony, President Aleksander Kwaśniewski gave an inaugural address. Talking to the Senate, the President said among other things: Mr. Speaker-Senior, Senators, On opening the new term of the Senate, we are witnessing an act of unique importance. We are witnessing the formation of the legislative branch of power of the Republic of Poland that will be in power in the first years of the new century. Yesterday, the Sejm convened for its first sitting. Today, it is the Senate that inaugurates its term. Polish democracy has created a new Parliament, and it is with you, Senators, that part of the responsibility is entrusted for the future of the Polish people in the new century. I sincerely congratulate you, Ladies and Gentlemen, on your election to the Senate. You are entering the Polish Parliament with a strong support of the voters and a strong democratic recommendation. The Senate electoral law provides that mandate is granted to those that receive the largest number of votes in their district. This means that each one of you was deemed the best and the most worthy of the place in the Senate. You may be proud of this. At the same time, this is associated with a special sense of service to others, not only those that put trust in you, your political parties and communities, but also to the entire nation. Political divisions and differences of opinion are inherent in a democracy. Likewise, it is undisputable that there is common good and an area of common concern and satisfaction. All the Polish people are united around the dignity of the Republic, raison d`etat, and the development of the nation passing through the centuries of history. I trust that from the moment you take your oath everything you do will strengthen what is common to us all. Ladies and Gentlemen, The Constitution of the Republic of Poland reserves a significant role in the state for the Senate. First and foremost, the Senate participates in the making of the law. The Senate may originate new laws. Since it usually has a clearer majority, it stabilizes the executive branch of government. The Senate is also equipped with unique powers that make it stand out among other state organs. You form the Senate, and the Senate is a place where the law may be modified and improved. The Constitution envisages for the Senate not only the role of reviewer of laws passed by the Sejm, but also the role of creative editor. In this sense, the Senate has superior powers to those of the President and the Constitutional Tribunal. The President may veto an imperfect law, but without being sure of the final effect of the veto. The Constitutional Tribunal may repeal such a law in part or in whole if it is unconstitutional, but the Tribunal may not amend it. Only the Senate may correct a law that has been passed by the Sejm. Therefore, with great hope, I call on you, Senators, to help Poland deal with an extremely important challenge of raising the quality of legislation. Yesterday, I asked the Sejm and, today, I ask you to take up this challenge. This question may determine the future of Poland, the trust of the Polish people in the state, the success of the economy, and the shape of the civic society. The Senate also exerts a considerable influence on the shaping of some state institutions. It plays a special role in maintaining ties between Poland and the Polish Diaspora. Millions of our countrymen and women across the continents, people of Polish descent, want to keep in contact with the Polish culture, language, and life of the Homeland. They need our support, well-disposed attention, and solidarity. I am convinced that I will be able to work with the Senate of the fifth term to strengthen the global family of the Polish people. Ladies and Gentlemen, The first years of the new century, the time of your parliamentary mandate, look promising, but also difficult. This is what Poland, Europe, and the world is facing. Besides advantages and great opportunities, there are also complicated challenges and threats. The Polish transformations that have made us so successful have to be complemented and reinforced. The division between those that have found a place in the new reality and those that are suffering poverty and feel hopelessness has become too apparent and dangerous. Each and every Polish politician should have qualms of conscience about growing unemployment. We must again put our economy on the track to fast growth and ensure stability of public finances. I count that your wisdom and responsibility will pave the way to the best solutions. Mr. Speaker-Senior, Ladies and Gentlemen, For a number of years and with consistent efforts, Poland has been seeking to become a member of the European Union. Now, the negotiations will enter a decisive stage. Poland is likely to join the EU on January 1, 2004. It is just two years from now. Today, it is becoming more and more obvious that we will either join the Union then or, if we fail to meet the requirements, in more distant and somewhat misty future. Therefore, we need to focus our resources and keep a tight rein on our nerves to play a winning card in order to ensure prosperity to Poland for the coming century. Poland is located in the center of the continent. Exclusion from Europe does not make sense. A place in the integrated Europe will multiply our advantages and opportunities. And although the EU membership will not remedy all of our problems, it will open up opportunities of which we can only dream today. Along this road, we will have to go through a national debate and a referendum on Poland`s membership in the EU. This debate has already started. I call on you, Senators, to use your knowledge, your talents, and your authority to help ensure a debate focused on the issues. Poland must not waste this opportunity. Ladies and Gentlemen, The world is at a difficult moment in time. It is not easy to grasp the global tangle of successes and failures, cooperation and hatred, bridge building and exclusion. We cannot be sure what the future will bring us. Is it going to be the future shaped by the collapse of the iron curtain or the future looming behind the ruins of the World Trade Center? By virtue of its entire history and by the will of its people, Poland is part of the global family, a family which is a community of freedom, democracy, and respect for human rights. This is our road, a road of the human civilization. The other road leads to emptiness, chaos, and fear. Everyone who assumes power also assumes responsibility. Today, this responsibility is especially grave and tangible. Therefore, one needs even more energy and poise to be able to carry it. I am saying this to you, but also to myself and to the leaders and representatives of the new Parliament. I will feel a special bond with this Parliament, as in four years` time, in 2005, within a few months of each other the terms of office of the Sejm and the Senate and the President will end. The Polish people and history will judge our intentions and our actions. We are writing not only our biographies, but also a history book of the Republic of Poland. May it be a book of wisdom and beauty.