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Tuesday, 9 May 2000

President on Poland`s foreign policy

On May 9th, President of the Republic of Poland Aleksander Kwasniewski heard at parliament the "Report on the Basic Lines of Poland`s Foreign Policy," presented by Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek. In the afternoon, the President met with reporters at the Presidential Palace, who asked him for a comment on the report. President Aleksander Kwasniewski said: "I think that the Foreign Minister pointed out the most important strategic points of Poland`s foreign policy. This policy statement was fresher in form, differing from those made in the previous years. And I think it a good step taken, because we should speak more of the globalisation processes, which are taking place, as well as of dangers coming from various quarters, but not to limit ourselves to listing the issues which are traditionally dealt with by Polish diplomacy". Asked about the possibility of Poland entering the European Union in 2003, President said: "Poland has decided to prepare for a full-fledged entry to the European Union on January 1st, 2003, and I regard this goal as ambitious and realistic, requiring efforts from both sides. We must do what we should. Poland must do homework very well and on time, as this is the primary condition under which this decision and goal will be fulfilled. Secondly, the European Union must prepare for taking new members in. It is no easy process. Talks are drawn out, but the more we are prepared, the more we will press, the more the European Union will have to speed up its work to admit new members. Let`s remember we have to do with the mechanism of connected vessels. Poland`s resolve and the determination of other aspiring countries will be forcing the European Union, in my opinion, to complete the institutional reforms, making the date of 2003 still more real. And I agree with Minister Geremek on this point. We do count very much on the French presidency, which begins in two months. I am going next week to France on an official visit and I think this will be a festive occasion to speak of our aspirations at the highest level and expect from the French a clear-cut attitude and support for such a scenario, according to which the European Union will open up quicker to new members, and not later than just in 2003". Asked to assess the state of negotiations with the EU, President said that they are advanced in as much, as it is possible now. "Let`s remember that negotiations are and they will be difficult. I even foresee they will become more difficult. One should expect there would be tensions. But this is the essence of negotiations. It is like it was said today at parliament. The thing is not that negotiations are tough or easy. The point is they should be effective and serve we the Polish interests. They must also serve the interests of an enlarged European Union. I believe that if there is good will on the Union`s part, if Polish negotiators are prepared well, it will be possible to find solutions and compromises wherever it is necessary". Asked whether the policy statement did not lack "a look to Russia," the President said.: "I think this position statement included important formulations concerning Russia: ones saying about the need of good neighbourliness, normalisation of our relations and the necessity of political, economic and cultural initiatives and regional cooperation. There was much encouragement in this policy statement about relations with Russia. And we will see what will come out of that. I am convinced that there are chances to stabilise Russia`s internal situation. Mr Putin`s assuming presidency provides good grounds for starting talks and seeking new ideas, new qualities in our contacts. The gestures made recently seem to be relevant: the telephone conversations which I had the opportunity to exchange with President Putin recently, as well a letter of congratulations that went unnoticed by the press and was sent over on the occasion of May 3rd, in which President Putin wished us development and prosperity as a state and nation. These are gestures which proffer hope, I think, that this good neighbourliness, mentioned above, is a goal possible to reach. Poland needs good relations with Russia to build stability in our region, to be a trustful partner for western countries". Asked to size up the situation in Belarus, as presented by the Foreign Minister, the President said: "I evaluate it the same way. It is our neighbour, with which we would like to normalise contacts, with which we would like to cooperate. But it is difficult for us to cooperate being confronted with the attitude which the President of that country adopted towards the essential limitations of democracy, towards essential limitations of freedom of speech, which are taking place there, towards the attitude of authorities on various social organisations, including Polish. With concern we are following what`s going on, but we do believe that the situation in Belarus will be evolving in a positive direction due to the essential interest the international communisty and the Council of Europe are taking in what is happening in that country. This means that there will be ever more democracy there, ever more readiness on the part of authorities to cooperate with the opposition, that Belarus will decide to be there, afterall, where other countries of the region are now, starting from Russia, that is in the group of democratic states". The President was also asked for a comment on the state of adjusting our Army to NATO standards: "We are adapting the Army to NATO standards. It is not a process that can be completed in a year. We have done much entering the alliance. Let`s remember we had to comply with several dozen requirements. But the process of modernising the Polish Army, of reorganising and adjusting to collaboration and interoperativeness with NATO requires time. Our commanders and soldiers are being trained. We have ever more of joint experience. Take, for instance, Kosovo, where a Polish battalion has been operating from the very start, or Bosnia-Hercegovina, where Polish generals have a good reputation at the NATO headquarters. So, I would say that during the first year of our presence in NATO we have done what we should. But it should be remembered that the adjustment process will take still many years and, unfortunately, it will cost much. I go on convincing the Polish public that it is not enough to speak only of the modernisation of the Polish Army, but that it is also necesssary to earmark resources for that. I count on understanding that consecutive budgets will allot money to upgrade the Polish armed forces. That is necessary, if we do not want to have a negligible army not to be reckoned with. And one more thing: Poland must keep abreast not only with the new members, that is with the Czech Republic of Hungary, but with countries which have a similar potential to Poland`s, that is with Spain. But to reach Spain`s level in terms of equipment, experience and preparedness for collaboration, we must still do much work".
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