19 października 2001
On October 19, 2001, Aleksander Kwaśniewski, President of the Republic of Poland, participated in the inauguration of the fourth term of the Sejm of the Republic of Poland. The President was accompanied by Jolanta Szymanek-Deresz, Chief of the Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland, and Marek Ungier, Secretary of State and Chief of the Cabinet Unit of the President of the Republic of Poland. In his inaugural address, the President said: Mr. Speaker-Senior, Members of Parliament, Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Prime Minister Designate, Excellencies Bishops, Excellencies Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen, On September 23, 2001, the nation decided in a free election the makeup of this Chamber. Today you, newly elected Members of Parliament, are taking over from your predecessors the burden of public service. You received a mandate of trust from the voters. This mandate is an obligation passed to your parties but also to each and every individual Member of Parliament, elected by name. I would like to congratulate all the election committees represented in the newly-elected Sejm and you, Ladies and Gentlemen. Mr. Speaker, Honorable Members of Parliament, This Sejm is inaugurating its term in the first year of the new century. This should make us think even more beyond this term and feel responsibility for the generations to come. The inauguration of this Sejm coincides with dramatic international developments. Following September 11 and the terrorist attack on the United States, the world has changed. Unfortunately, it has changed for the worse. We stand united with our American allies in their fight against international terrorism. We know that we will now have to act in more difficult, and hopefully not dramatic, conditions. Poland, its new Parliament, and the new government are facing great challenges, I dare say, the greatest and the most difficult challenges since 1989. They will require from all of us maturity, foresight, and commitment. It is no overstatement to say that the future of the Republic of Poland is largely in your hands, Ladies and Gentlemen. 12 years have passed since the historic breakthrough. It is more than half of the period of the Second Republic. The words transformation and reform are no longer sufficient to describe what needs to be done in Poland. We are in a situation that calls for new concepts, ideas, and projects. This situation also calls for courage to meet new challenges. The urgent social and economic needs are not difficult to define. Work and development, justice and honesty, competence and consistency should be the main mission of the politicians in 2001 and the following years. Poland needs faster economic growth. It also needs to ensure public security, to improve the conditions of those living in rural areas, to combat poverty and injustice, and to spread education. Very soon, literally in a matter of days, you and all of us will have to address inevitable specific questions as to how to achieve the goals that most of us generally share and what methods should be used: How to deal with the problems inherited from the past, the previous Parliament, and the previous government? How to make savings in a situation of scarce resources? How to increase the state`s revenues without affecting the poorest, but also without thwarting business activity? We must seek to answer these questions together and be aware of the fact that even if there are no best answers, we will have to somehow address these issues. Poland has a new Sejm that will be expected to put the state in order and to stimulate growth. This will allow us to regain hope, optimism, and trust that Poland is going in the right direction and that it is able to meet its goals. I know for sure that this is going to happen. Members of Parliament, In seeking new ways to stimulate growth and new solutions to make our economy more effective and more competitive, we are opening up to Western Europe and the entire developed world. Is there a better opportunity for growth for Poland than participation in European integration? We know that this is not a recipe for 100% success, but it is an opportunity. And it will depend on our determination and preparation whether we will take advantage of this opportunity. Poland has already paid significant costs of alignment with EU requirements, but we must be aware that we are dealing with a challenge of unprecedented scale. We also know that the gap in terms of economy and development between the two parts of the continent is still enormous. We are not hiding that the scale of our efforts and alignment is exceptional and affects the entire population. However, the benefits that can be gained from European integration are worth these efforts. Poland`s membership in the European Community will provide us with opportunities for growth and will stimulate our development as never before. We also know that as a result of the makeup of this Chamber, the national debate about Poland`s place in Europe will no doubt become more controversial. But I trust that it will also be more profound and better. I believe that there is room for different opinions, views, and assessments, but we need to talk to one another to persuade one another and achieve consensus. All this must lead to a decision, the best decision on choices that are expected and most desirable for Poland. As the President, I say it again before this Chamber that there is no better alternative to Poland`s membership in the European Union. And I would like you to say it here in this Chamber and pass it to our partners that Poland is largely determined on its way to the European Union. Mr. Speaker-Senior, Honorable Members of Parliament, The present Sejm is the third Sejm that I will be working with as President. Under the Constitution, provided that I stay in good health, I will also work with the next Sejm. But I assure you that I will support all efforts that are good for Poland, and I declare my willingness to cooperate with you, Members of Parliament, as effectively as possible. I also count on your understanding of and support for initiatives that I will submit to this Chamber, including a number of initiatives that I will submit very shortly. I also believe that despite program differences between the individual parties, you can capitalize on what you share to write the best possible scenario for the country. I also believe that you will take every effort to create the best possible law. Remember and respect the fact that the legislation you will pass is not for unknown and abstract communities, but for real people. Legislators lay down the law that remains in force in changing conditions in not always predictable future. This challenge will clearly be your challenge, as you will be expected to raise legislative standards. Politics has its rules. People will always get organized in various political groups around issues, ideas, and visions that are most important to them. But politicians cannot focus on themselves and their disputes. We cannot afford this, as we have no time. As evidenced by the last few years and the last election, such an attitude is also rejected by the voters. I think that we will bear in mind this experience and political debates, and that dividing lines will now become clearer. Democracy serves a teaching role. I trust that parties draw conclusions from failed projects and mistakes. Conclusions from previous decisions are also drawn by the voters. They do not expect immediate changes, but a four-year term of office is sufficient for the people to assess whether changes are largely for the better or for the worse. Mr. Speaker, Honorable Members of Parliament, The Sejm`s inauguration always brings hope. At a moment like today, the people place their expectations with their new representatives in Parliament. Never ignore these expectations. Remember how many expectations have not been met in the recent years. Remember that your strength lies not only with you and your parties. The strength of politicians lies in the trust of the people, which is a measure of credibility, professionalism, competence, and consistency of politicians. Trust differs from applause. It can be won only if one recognizes that the essence of politics is not to defeat or eliminate your opponent. Neither is it merely to capture power and to hold to power. The fundamental sense of politics lies in seeking the best possible solutions in a dialog and substantive debate. Trust requires sustained hard work. It must be confirmed again and again by responsibility, caution, and knowledge. The late Reverend Professor Józef Tischner once wrote: "The ability to govern people is above all the ability to persuade. To govern, one needs to persuade." Mr. Speaker-Senior, Ladies and Gentlemen, Fellow Citizens, The Polish people believe that you are capable of dealing with these challenges. I wish success to all the Members of Parliament assembled here today. I wish you success as President and as one of the millions of Polish people that stand united with me in wishing you success. We all greatly need your success, your positive contribution, and your achievements. I trust that you will spare no effort or time to overcome all the challenges that Poland and the world have in store for us. I wish you all the best.