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Thursday, 11 October 2001

Visit to Switzerland - day dwo

On May 22nd 2001 the President of the Republic of Poland Aleksander Kwasniewski with Spouse during the second day of their visit to the Swiss Confederation met with the High Commissioner for the Human Rights Ms. Mary Robinson. During the evening the President participated in the special meeting organized by the Diplomatic Club of Geneva. During the event Aleksander Kwasniewski, President of the Republic of Poland presented a lecture "Evolution of the International Environment - Threats and Opportunities". Distinguished Mr Chairman, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentleman! To meet such outstanding personalities - diplomats and international analysts - is for me a great honour and satisfaction. Thank you for the invitation. May I take this opportunity to congratulate you on the 25th anniversary of your Club. I am glad that I can share with you some thoughts on the transformations which shape the world today. I would also like to present to you the foundations of Polish foreign policy and describe the place which Poland would like to occupy in the landscape of the 21st century. Changes which happen in the world are seldom marked by a clear-cut watershed. They are usually long processes: sometimes visible, but - more often than not - they happen inconspicuously and initially escape our attention. It is only at the end of the process that we perceive the change which has occurred. And yet, I believe that today we all feel that a new reality has come about and that a new threshold has been crossed. Contrary to the bygone Cold War era, what is most characteristic today is the coexistence of many forces and tendencies, many trends and directions in the sphere of politics, divergent world views, different cultures and mentalities. Though sometimes conflicting, they - at the same time - permeate and impact one another. In the mutual tension, there are inward, or integrating, processes, as well as those which break up, fragment and destabilise. We observe many regions and communities willing to open up to the world and make contact with others, but elsewhere we see rapidly rising nationalism, religious fundamentalism, xenophobia, and isolationist tendencies. Perhaps more than ever before - humanity today needs dialogue and solidarity. Politics has become popularly viewed as the main arena for international relations. To a large extent, that is still the case - however, it is outside the world of politics that many of humanity`s concerns lie, being of civilizational, economic or cultural nature. Technology is bringing about great changes in the international environment. Opportunities which arise - huge improvements in living standards, bringing people closer together - are mind-boggling. And yet, concerned questions are asked about the soul of the global market or the global information society: how to find ourselves in the virtual world?; how far will genetic engineering go? The current world order is tainted by a major problem: economic inequality. Wealth and poverty, development and stagnation - are two separate worlds growing more and more apart. Some other clouds appear on the horizon of the 21st century: environmental hazards, diseases which kill millions - like AIDS or malaria, unemployment in poor countries, ageing of population in rich countries, uncontrolled migrations, international crime and terrorism. The traditional concept of politics - being the domain of a sovereign state - becomes helpless or at least acutely aware of its limitations when faced with these problems. The state-based multilateralism as the principle of the world order is, to some degree, brought into question. Even though the state will for a long time remain the major point of reference in international relations, a growing "reduction of statehood" on the world stage is becoming a sign of the times. On the one hand, the scale of world problems fosters the role of international organizations as well as non-governmental civic society institutions. On the other hand, there is an increased significance of an individual. Human rights are a universal value and need to be defended - everywhere and at all times. The security of an individual depends on peace, order and justice - values which should not be infringed by the state. The UN Secretary General called it "human security". The international community is likely to embrace more fully this new approach to international affairs. It will certainly raise questions about the traditional notions of sovereignty and non-involvement in internal affairs. New rules must evolve, while a reasonable modus vivendi is maintained. While seeking a formula to describe the new era we keep referring to the concept of "globalization". Some criticize the term as meaningless - a mere attempt at containing the chaos of today`s world. Others have turned it into a demigod of modern times - in it they perceive a remedy for every trouble of humanity. Another group has called for holy war against it and marched to battle in the streets of Prague, Davos and Toronto. Globalization is, without doubt, a real process. It plays first fiddle in the evolution of the international environment. At the UN Millennium Summit - where, on behalf of Poland, I had the honour to preside over one of the debates - globalization was treated as a great challenge which will have to be faced in the 21st century. A challenge bringing as many opportunities as dangers. Some people view globalization as a process of uniformity: homogenizing different routes of civilizational development, economic models, systemic solutions, political choices. Such a process would supposedly lead to - in the classic notion of Francis Fukuyama - "the end of history". One universal model of development bringing an end to disputes and the traditionally understood political competition. However, in spite of all its merits, such a process would be very dangerous. It is hard to imagine it being a completely peaceful evolution; it could mean domination of stronger states over the weaker ones leading to an artificial homogeneity. Another aspect of globalization - even more recognisable than uniformity - is interdependence. Unlike with uniformity, it is hard to ascribe any value to it. It is simply a fact of life. We have to accept it, just like the law of gravity. The world is shrinking and intertwining; true independence and autonomy are increasingly rare - and we cannot help it. We are influenced by what happens in other regions or even continents - and, conversely, we impact the lives of people who live there. There is a special aspect of globalization - apart from its political, economic, and technological dimensions - and that is the role which in today`s world is played by culture and civilizational identity. We are witnessing two opposing tendencies. On the one hand - mainly thanks to the media and mass culture - there is a growing universality of some cultural values, customs, leisure patterns. On the other hand - protection of a sense of identity, attachment to values specific to a given culture, community or religion - are now very high-priced. This is what the 21st century will be like: there will be universal codes of communication, but at the same time a multitude of voices, cultures and historical traditions. The western civilisation should become especially aware of this, as for many centuries it has grown accustomed to its supposed universalizm. Today it is crucial to respect other identities, the others` need to differ, their specific outlook on the world and life in general. Such an approach will determine our successful coexistence and global co-operation. Globalization may become an opportunity for the world: a chance for development and creative transformations - as long as we adhere to the principle of partnership. We can thus avoid a clash of civilisations. Like with the Internet, where many servers are needed, so with globalization: many nations and cultures must take part. A free flow of ideas, goods and lifestyles must be available to all societies. Otherwise, barriers will rise and marginalize numerous groups of people. A sense of disillusionment, of being worse and misunderstood may result in acts of violence, or a boycott of international co-operation - which in turn would undermine world stability. The road of dialogue, partnership and solidarity is the only road into the future. Poland shares the concerns and hopes of modern world. Although we realise the dangers looming ahead of humanity, we look at the future with confidence and spiritual energy. Our optimism stems from our achievements. They prove that a desire for change, courage and consistent efforts can turn dreams into reality. We managed to end our run of misfortunes and overcome the painful experiences of 20th century history. Over the last several years Poland has changed beyond recognition. It is now an sovereign democracy based on the rule of law, a country with political stability and a growing civic society, a country of economic success and profound civilizational transformations. Polish transformation, which was started by the "Solidarity" movement in 1980 and followed by the Round Table in 1989, greatly contributed to abolishing walls which, after Yalta, divided Europe for almost half a century. That was only the beginning of our road - today, we are perceived as an even more important actor on the European stage, a leader of change in the region, a keystone of regional stability and an important player in the process of European unification. We enjoy good relations with all our neighbours. It is worth noting that the current map of our surroundings differs substantially from that of 1989. None of the three countries we used to border exists today - instead, we now have seven neighbours. The situation is truly special for another important reason. These sovereign states may be new on the political map, but our contacts with nations which inhabit them have a very long history - with both good and bad experience. There was a persistent question as to which of the traditions we were going to continue. When the Yaltan ice melted and we regained our power to make sovereign decisions, one possibility was to extend goodwill towards each other. Another was to return to old disputes, again give in to stereotypes and persistent sentiments, resort to hateful rumination of the wrongs we suffered from others. We opted for the future and chose to redeem the bad past. We chose reconciliation and co-operation. Eastern Europe followed a road diametrically different to that of the Balkans. Poland contributed greatly to that cause. We have achieved reconciliation and close partnership with Germany, Lithuania and Ukraine. Together with Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary we have given a new political and economic dimension to the cultural traditions of Central Europe. Our dialogue with Russia is showing a lot of promise. Through a network of both bilateral and multilateral relations in the areas of politics and economy, Poland has become an important centre of regional co-operation. We support the creation of a chain of co-operation linking the Baltic area, Central Europe, and the Black Sea region. This is also our contribution to the construction of unified Europe. Two years ago Poland joined NATO, we are now approaching membership in the European Union. We view both these organizations as elements of integration based on democratic principles; their role is creating a secure, stable and prosperous Europe without divisions. To be a part of these structures is the Polish raison d`etre. However, we would not like unified Europe to be limited to the unified West. Poland considers itself part of the West European cultural heritage - it is a constructive element of our identity - but, equally strongly - we stress our central position on the continent. For many centuries Polish tradition has included openness, interest in diversity, tolerance. Polish soil was the space where different nationalities met, where different cultures and historical experiences intermingled. We have always been neighbours of the East. We have always been and will remain a bridge between East and West. It becomes clearly visible now, when the eastern border of Poland is also the eastern boundary of NATO. In a few years it will become the eastern border of the European Union: the place where the EU adjoins Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. We wish to be a link, not a bulwark. Poland would like to contribute to the eastern policy of both NATO and the EU. Considering the challenges of the 21st century, we must strive to maintain the momentum of European integration, we must embrace new countries and generate further support. Between 1989 and 1990 independent Poland began to recreate its position in the international arena. In historical perspective, we had a long and rich tradition of participation in European politics. Even in the post-war period, with limited sovereignty and from behind the Iron Curtain, we were able to - with some degree of independence - develop relations with many countries, and instil them with our own specifically Polish vision. We were present in the world. That was our achievement. We were not able to make full use of it, as after 1989 so much changed around us and we had to develop many directions of our foreign policy almost from scratch. Initially, we focused on the German unification and changes in the East, then on developing good neighbourly relations and treaties. In addition, we were busy with our own internal transformation. With time we were able to spread our wings. We became members of the OECD, joined the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance, took up new challenges during our presidency in the OSCE, and started on our way towards the European Union. The last decade marks Poland`s international ascent: we encompass a growing realm of European and global affairs. Our ties with the world`s most developed nations, with leaders in the spheres of democracy and economic prosperity - have become a vital part of the process. We feel that Poland`s position in Europe and across the world is growing and that our voice is listened to attentively. This brings us satisfaction but, at the same, time increases our responsibility for issues at the centre of world`s attention. Poland is an active member of the United Nations; I already mentioned our contribution to the UN`s Millennium Summit. Another vital instrument of international co-operation is worth recalling: the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime which was signed six months ago and to the drafting of which Poland contributed substantially. Polish troops have for many years served in international peace-enforcement and peace-keeping missions, including Kosovo, Bosnia, Lebanon and Syria; they work as observers in the Caucasus, in Asia and Africa. A Polish lady is the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe. We are also involved in other specialized international organizations, working for the universal good. A month ago, together with the President of Lithuania, I had the honour to be co-patron of an interesting UNESCO project: an international conference on dialogue among civilisations. Poland, as a member of the OECD, supports economic and social development of countries undergoing transformation - international co-operation for development is today becoming an integral part of foreign policy. We are an active member of the OSCE, where our efforts are boosted by the possibilities stemming from being part of NATO as well our involvement in the process of European integration. It is my conviction, that in subsequent years of the 21st century, Poland will even more vigorously engage in solving the problems of Europe and the world. In this respect, we posses considerable strengths: we are a country of 40 million people and significant potential, we have an extensive network of relations with other countries and rich historical experience. We have will and enthusiasm. The arrangement of international relations is undergoing profound transformation. We live in a world which is multifaceted and interdependent. It requires from us - countries, regions, nations and cultures - ever closer co-operation, partnership, and looking for things which
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