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Wednesday, 5 April 2000

President opens Millennium Congress

On April 5th, 2000, President of the Republic of Poland Aleksander Kwasniewski solemnly opened the Millennium Congress "One Thousand Years of Polish-German Relations. Language-Literature-Culture-Politics-Economy" at the Royal Castle in Warsaw. It was organised at the initiative of the Association of Polish Germanists. The President said this, among other things, in his opening address: "The one-thousand-year history of Poland and Germany`s neighbourhood is a complex matter. It often left behind painful traumas on both sides, so much difficult to overcome. But that was possible more than once, as generations remembered "reciprocal services" rendered out of the sense of belonging to the community of people jointly living in this world. There were such events between our nations as the German Law, under which hundreds of Polish towns developed and prospered, or the German sculptor, who created the most beautiful of altars for the Polish most famous church, the Kosciol Mariacki, in Krakow. We are aware of mutual linguistic borrowings dating back to the oldest times, and we remember well joint cultural experiences and political challenges of the Saxon Epoch. There is evidence of solidarity between Poles and Germans, between men of letters, culture and science, from the most difficult times. It is just from such practices that politics draws inspiration and strength in the quest of official rapprochement and reconciliation. It is also owing to such experiences that businessmen take to cooperation between themselves. After the drama of the Second World War and the "Cold War," which so strongly weighed Polish-German relations down, the politics of the recent years scored a spectacular success. The joint experiences of 1989 and the jointly acclaimed goal of incorporating Poland into the European economic and political structures span and clamp these years. Polish and German politicians did very much over that time to see reconciliation and rapprochement of our nations become not only a catchword, but a reality as well. I am proud to say that we have nowadays the best relations since time immemorial, that for the first time in history we find ourselves within the same military alliance, the NATO. But we cannot stop at the great satisfaction that accompanies this feeling. The politically conceived reality should be turned into a daily practice. And only then the success will be complete and certain. And this means that the Polish-German agreement should be carefully upheld to warm with it all the structures of cooperation and mutual relations. Even the best of treaties and trade exchanges will not prevent the revival of bad stereotypes and antiquated prejudice. Not always do they even prevent the emergence of new ones. We are protected against such stereotypes, bias, reluctance and ill-will just by constant contacts in all walks of life, by contacts between all, by daily, good- neighbourly, partner-like, friendly and family-like cooperation, which brings both sides closer together to know and understand one another better. We are optimists when we speak of cooperation and agreement within the European family of nations. Life itself charts an avenue to the future for ourselves. But we must be headed not only for economic prosperity. We must add to that a humanistic dimension. We must deliberately shape understanding and sense of belonging to the same community amongst Germans and Poles, amongst neighbours and inhabitants of this part of Europe and the world.
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