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Thursday, 11 May 2000

PRESIDENT IN ICELAND

The text of the speech at parliament: "I express my satisfaction at having this opportunity to take the floor at Althing, Europe`s oldest parliament. The origins of your parliamentarianism date back to the legendary times of the first millennium. Throughout centuries, the assembly of free inhabitants of the island was instituting the rules of conduct and resolved disputes. It served as an example of democratic organisation of public life. The history of Althing was written into the uncommonness of your country, like your nature, climate and geographical situation. The Polish traditions of "people`s democracy" are much alike. They refer to the Slav early assemblies - "sejms". With pride Poles emphasize that our parliament, the Sejm, has traditions dating back to the 15th century. In 1791, it passed the first modern constitution in Europe, much earlier than the French and after only the United States`. That was an important moment in our history. In the time of losing their own statehood, it reminded Poles of the highest values: independence, freedom and civil rights. It was also a constant call to shed the chains of bondage. We are close to one another despite the geographical distance separating us. There were mentions in the oldest Icelandic sagas about mythical figures that could have been of the Slav descent. Historical signs of our contacts date back to the 12th and 13th centuries. In the 15th century, merchant ships from Gdansk used to put in Icelandic ports. The beauty of your country has always influenced imagination. The Icelandic honesty, persistence and skills to fight against adversity impress the Polish visitors. Today, Icelandic Polonians strengthen the friendly bonds between us, quite numerous nows. The Polish-Icelandic Friendship Society has been active in Poland for forty years. Popular with Polish readers are translations of books by Halldora Laxness and Gunnar Gunnarson. The Polish arts and literature are also known in Iceland. We maintain bilaterally advantageous economic contacts. We are allies in the North Atlantic Treaty. I thank from the bottom of my heart to members of Althing for the ratification of our accession to the NATO. The membership of the Alliance is the guarantee of stability and peace. That also applies to the entire region of Central and Eastern Europe. Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary`s membership of NATO provides an historical chance for providing lasting security to this part of the continent. Poland is pursuing a policy of compatibility of words and deeds. We are a reliable ally, which is corroborated by our involvement in the campaign of restoring peace to Kosovo. As a member of the Alliance, we spare no effort to adjust our armed forces to Western standards. But we know this task will become fully feasible only when we insure development to the entire country. That`s why we are doing everything possible to enter the European Union. The efforts by our soldiers to adjust the Army to the allied operations are accompanied by no smaller efforts by the public to raise Poland`s civilizational level. Poland`s contribution to the unification of Europe amounts to the engagement in the regional cooperation in Central and Eastern Europe. We are a centre of political and economic stability in the region. We care much about friendly relations with all states. We share our experience, undertaking actions within bilateral relations, being active in regional and pan-European structures. We are headed towards a stable and prosperous Europe. The process of adjusting Poland to the European Union`s requirements is changing the Polish society, economy and state. We are in talks with representatives of the European Commission. We have already agreed nearly a half of topics related to the accession. The date of 2003 as a possible date of our entry to the EU is fully real in my conviction. Much depends on us, on our persistence and consistency in modernizing the national economy. We started social and political transformations as the first in Central and Eastern Europe. We have managed to stabilise the economy and transform it into a market oriented one, embarking upon a path of growth. Poland at the threshold of the 21st century is developing fast. It has become a democratic state of law, whose foundation is a new constitution, passed in a referendum. We are carrying out structural reforms on its basis. They apply to the public administration, the system of health protection, pension and education reforms. The idea spanning all of these great undertakings is to rationalise public spendings. The Polish national economy is realising ambitious goals. We are seeking ways to improve the agriculture. The future of the Polish countryside and our position in the European farming policy depend on the success of these quests. But the public is bearing big burdens connected with the process of crucial changes. Our strength lies in the fact that the overwhelming majority of Poles come out in favour of this direction of transformations. They support them, taking an active part in them despite the changing coalitions and government teams. The membership of NATO and accession to the European Union are the crucial questions of the Polish reason of state. We are optimists. We do believe that like so far we will be successful. The maintenance of high economic growth is essential, as it will determine whether we will be able to narrow the distance separating us from the industrial nations. Time, within which the Polish law, our economic institutions and entities are adapted to the European Union`s requirements, is a crucial factor. The government and parliament play a large part in this respect. We have adopted priorities in our work on adjusting our legal system to the Union`s standards. This means an intensive legislative effort in the next few years. Many a domain of our public life will change. This will happen to the benefit of our society in the hope for opening new perspectives to Poland. For both of our countries, Europe means not only historical heritage, a symbol of unity in international life. It means, above all, a widely opened gate to new times. We belong to the European family. Prosperity, development and security depend on the quality of partnership and effectiveness of European cooperation, on what we will be able to contribute to the united Europe, as well as on our capabilities to use the civilizational achievements. Poland and Iceland are united by concern to insure peace to the world, by the striving to develop economic relations and equal-right participation in the global politics and economics. I do hope that our economic, scientific and cultural cooperation will keep increasing. The experiences of the past decade show that Poles and Icelanders have got much to offer to themselves. Together we are taking up the challenges of the 21st century, which provides hopes that we will be able to create a better, more equitable and secure world". The second day of the visit in Iceland started with the meeting of President Aleksander Kwasniewski and Prime Minister of Iceland David Oddsson. They discussed about NATO, Russia and East Europe and about future realations between EU and Iceland. At the afternoon President Aleksander Kwasniewski gave the lecture "Poland at the threshold of the 21st century" at the University of Iceland, Reykjavik.
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