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Wednesday, 16 January 2002

Official visit of the President of the Russian Federation - State Dinner at the presidential Palace

On January 16th 2002 towards the end of the first day of the Polish visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Polish President Aleksander Kwaśniewski issued an official reception at the Presidential Palace to honour the Russian President. After both Presidents, the Presidential Spouse and Polish and Russian guests had taken their seats in the Hall of Columns, the Polish Army Gala Band played the national anthems of the Russian Federation and Poland. The President of the republic of Poland raised a toast: Dear Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am extremely happy to greet the President of the Russian Federation on Polish soil. I am meeting the leader of a country which takes part in shaping the present-day world by its geopolitical role, economic, scientific, and cultural attainments, and also by its natural resources and military potential. Russia deserves respect and sympathy with the vastness of its economic reform, commitment to the cause of worldwide peace and security. A new image of a democratic Russia now going through a profound historic, transformation is associated with the personality of President Vladimir Putin. On behalf of Poland and the Polish people, I wish to express our greatest recognition to the Russia as it is today, busy with new construction, finding its new place again in the landscape of the world and integrating Europe, the Russia which is our close neighbour-Poland wishes this Russia success and with hope meets it half-way. The first visit of Russian President to Poland in the recent eight years a special significance for us. We attach a symbolic dimension to this meeting-as a new phase in the Polish-Russian relations. Our desire is to jointly give them a new quality proportionate to the 21st century challenges. Work on establishing the best possible relation with Russia is an important goal of Polish foreign policy. And so is the desire of the Polish people. Recent public opinion surveys show that more than two thirds of the Polish nation considers the Russians as their partners or allies. We have common interests in many spheres, our languages and cultures are close. Good relations between Poland and Russia are an important component of the international co-operation, a condition of Europe`s successful development, security, and development of our region. Ladies and Gentlemen, History and geography have made Russia a state localised on two continents, linked with many various centres of civilisation, culture and politics. Nevertheless, the most important bonds-economic, political, and cultural-have tied it to Europe. Over centuries Russia was a co-architect of the historical attainments of this continent by adding its fascinating input in the development of the continent`s culture and civilisation. This is why Russia, as well as Poland, does not have to go to Europe-we have been there since very long ago. We are connected with Europe today by the attachment to the fundamental values, such as: freedom, democracy, human and civil rights, economy based on the free human enterprise, tolerance for religious and political outlooks. These values were brutally assaulted by terrorism on September 11, 2001. The tragic developments of that day, the blow dealt on the United States is understood by us as an assault on universal order, civilisation, and peace. A broad international coalition was established to protect these values and counteract terrorism. Russia was among the founders of this coalition. The fact that you, Mr. President, were the first leader in the world who made a phone call to the US President right after the tragic events in New York will get into the historical annals. Poland has also taken an active part in the coalition from the very beginning, it has co-operated in building its idea and goals. Following my own initiative a conference of 17 countries from Central-Eastern Europe and the Balkans was held in Warsaw to help concentrate the efforts and undertake substantial anti-terrorism measures in our region. The conference was attended by a high-ranking representative of the Russian Federation. Poland and Russia today are linked by their concern about freeing the contemporary world also from the other sources of evil-bridging the gap between the rich and the poor, eliminating the unequal access to education and health protection, ideological and religious fundamentalism, ethnic chauvinism, violence in inter-personal relations, as well as between communities and states. Ladies and Gentlemen, Russia has invigorated its relations with the North Atlantic Alliance. Poland, as a NATO member and Russia`s neighbour, takes a sympathetic and satisfied attitude towards this co-operation. The expanding and re-defining its functions NATO remains the core of the structure of European security. However, it is impossible to ensure political order, security, and stability at our continent without the participation of Russia. The qualitative breakthrough in the Russia-NATO relations augurs hope and potential for building a safe Europe. The same message comes from the Pact`s expansion by including the countries of our region which emerged out of the trauma of their experience during the past century believe that NATO is their opportunity to build their own security and peace in the region and on the continent. We believe that further expansion of the Alliance which increasingly closely co-operates with Russia, will not become a factor of difference. Moreover, we believe that we can find in it a prospect for en even closer co-operation. Poland is a country whose history and localisation made it a place where Western and Eastern Europe meet. This meeting so often used to take place on battlefield but it also brought about joint creation of common values and masterpieces, the construction of the building of European civilisation, the currents of co-operation and dialogue. Today, Poland in the heart of Europe wants to take advantage of its localisation on the basis of the same durable values-we want peace and development for ourselves and our neighbours. We do not want to build a new wall along our eastern borders as a result of the European Union`s expansion. We want to link. We want to have close partners and friends in Russia and other neighbour-countries. We expect that following Poland`s integration with the European Union-and we believe this will happen within two years from now-the contacts between our countries will become even more attractive. The Kaliningrad District and the whole Baltic Region can become an area of special co-operation. The increasingly better relations between Poland and Russia do not mean that contacts with other neighbour-countries, especially Lithuania, Ukraine, and Belarus, are going down. Partner-like, sincere Polish-Russian relations offer new prospects for co-operation in the entire region. Ladies and Gentlemen, Poland and Russia are carrying the enormous burden of their common history which contains-alongside clear and even golden pages-so much suffering, blood spill, and tears. There was a time of rivalry, there were the traumas of wars, and there were centuries of domination. I am saying this in an open way. Being a politician, I have realized that you cannot run away from your history. You should discuss it in a genuine way, cure the past wounds, and draw conclusions. I deeply believe that similarly to the successful development of the Polish-German and Polish-Ukrainian reconciliation, also the reconciliation of the Poles and the Russians will get its new qualities. Mr. President, we keep in our thankful memory the bold decisions of your predecessors-Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin-who disclosed the truth about Katyn. We hope that Polish and Russian historians will be able to carry on joint research on the interweaved past of the Polish and Russian people for which they will use a broad access to archives. With so much of traumatic historical experience, the Polish people have never transferred their pain on Russians as concrete individuals or on the Russian nation. Communism was the tragedy of millions, a common drama of the Russians, Poles, Ukrainians, Belarussians, Lithuanians, and other enslaved nations. We know that none other nation has ever suffered so much from the Stalinist totalitarianism as the Russian people. All those people-after years full of crime, humiliation, and oblivion-today deserve dignity, justice, and any compensation possible. Mr. President, tomorrow we are going to pay our joint homage to the Soviet Army soldiers fallen on the Polish soil. On November 1 each year, the remembrance day, the Polish people are putting candles on their graves. We honour their sacrifice of life which gave us liberation from the Nazi invader. No matter how we look at the history of the 20th century, we always remember that the victorious outcome of World War II was decided at Stalingrad and Kursk. And we will always bow in front of the courage and sacrifice of ordinary soldiers who were fighting not for politics but for their own freedom and freedom of other nations. The fascination with Russian culture in Poland is significant. The Poles taking part in a recent plebiscite for the novel of the 20th century have chosen Mikhail Bulghakov`s "Master and Margarita" as this very masterpiece. Russian literature, music, theatre, and film have scores of admirers in Poland. Artistic friendships between Poles and Russians have become legendary, just like the friendship between Anna Akhmatova and Józef Czapski, or Agnieszka Osiecka and Bułat Okudzhava. The greatest Polish contemporary poets gave us translations from the great Russians, let me just mention Julian Tuwim and his "Pushkin`s Lute" or Stanisław Barańczak who translated Osip Mandelshtam and Josif Brodsky. Jerzy Giedroyc published as part of his Paris-based "Kultura" library the translations of over 100 volumes by Russian historians and writers at that time unavailable in Poland, among them Aleksander Solzhenitsyn. These are the books owing to which the fame and greatness of Russia has remained unharmed in our eyes. The writings of Stanisław Lem are popular in Russia, poetry by Czesław Miłosz, movies by Andrzej Wajda, Krzysztof Zanussi, and Juliusz Machulski are highly valued there, plays staged by Erwin Axer, Polish actors and singers are remembered in Russia. Such outstanding personalities as Andrzej Drawicz, Leon Bójko or Jerzy Pomianowski-a long-time editor of the "Novaya Polsha" journal for Russian readers-can be mentioned as symbols of the Polish-Russian dialogue. And there is a long-time tradition of scientific, economic, and youth contacts. We also remember that my compatriots are living scattered by the winds of history at the vast territories of Russia. All this is a great heritage and attainments which we can convert into an excellent living Polish-Russian partnership. The Poles and the Russians must mutually forgive their sins, get over the resentments, and reconciliate in the name of the future and success of the generations to come. Poland and Russia have great potentials to develop economic co-operation. We would like to restore its balance, first of all by increasing the presence of our products on the Russian market. But we can also see opportunities present in joint projects, investment, and transit co-operation. Poland is ready to provide legal regulations and guarantees encouraging the growth of mutually beneficial commodity exchange. We voice our belief, Mr. President, that the forum of Polish and Russian businessmen which accompanies your visit will give a new, very substantial dimension to our economic relations. Your policy, Mr. President, is an example of skilful overcoming the burden of history, consistent support for the process of reforms and bold insight into the future. It is similar to my style of public work and tackling the facing challenges. We are linked by common experience, optimism, and energy. I believe Poland and Russia will know how to take advantage of the historic opportunity. In 1959 Jerzy Giedroyc, who most of his life had tried to build bridges between nations and cultures, encouraged the Poles and the Russians to get closer. He wrote: "Some dialogue should be started at last. Surely a tough and difficult one, but the point is to eventually start talking honest." Such an honest conversation we offer to you, Mr. President, and to all the Russian people today. An honest conversation about the history and present day, about what troubles us, what makes us happy, and what we are proud of. Let a genuine dialogue become an unquestionable principle of our relations and, at the same time, a commonplace reality of the Poles and the Russians. Full of confidence in the successful future of the Polish-Russian relations I raise this toast: - to the health, well-being, and success of the Russian President Mr. Vladimir Putin; - to the success of the Russian reforms; to a democratic, well-off, and strengthened Russia; - to the nations of the Russian Federation; - to the Polish-Russian partnership and co-operation in the open, uniting Europe! At this point, President Putin took the floor: Dear Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen, First of all I would like to voice my sincere thanks to Mr. President Aleksander Kwaśniewski, to all our Polish friends, for the excellent reception. From the first moments of our visit to Poland, we have seen esteem for the democratic, recovering Russia and its nation. I would like you to know that these feelings are on both sides. Russia and Poland are closely linked with their common European fates. They marched along the same historical road over centuries passing by difficult and dramatic bends. We understand today how important is a balanced approach to all the facts which happened during this ages-long civilisational movement. And, evaluating the lessons of history in an objective way, we must find those points of support that will help strengthen our co-operation and confidence. Our nations, which are next-door neighbours and former partners, have lived through different eras. But they have always been aware of their spiritual kinship, they have sought to develop good-neighbourly relations, and more than once used to fight shoulder-to-shoulder against a common enemy. Let us recall that as late as in 1410, Russian and Polish regiments fought shoulder-to-shoulder in the battle of Tannenberg, the symbol of emerging Polish statehood. And, in the years of World War II our soldiers together liberated the Smolensk region, Belarus, Warsaw, and Cracow. It is significant that our visit to Warsaw coincides with the anniversary of its liberation from the Nazi invaders. In this connection, I would like to thank all those who cherish the memory of our soldiers who perished in the struggle against Nazism, who take care of their graves. Our abundant cultural traditions are an expression of our great interest and sympathy. The friendship of our national men of genius-Aleksandr Pushkin and Adam Mickiewicz-can be the most glaring example here. Polish people are described as brave and honest in the novels by Leo Tolstoy and in the emotional speeches by Aleksandr Herzen. The writings of Henryk Sienkiewicz and Stanisław Lem, the magnificent music by Frederic Chopin, have exerted a major impact on the mentality and culture of the Russian people. These close cultural ties have always provided this special atmosphere of mutual understanding and esteem between our nations. I believe, that no one needs to be persuaded today about the necessity to cherish this common wealth. Dear Mr. President, Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, We are consistently and jointly building new inter-state relations today. They are underlied by a common devotion to democratic values and principles of market economy. And this-I believe-offers the most desirable prospects for the development of our multi-lateral partnership. The one and a half year which passed since our first meeting with President Aleksander Kwaśniewski in Moscow as been significant because of many important developments in the Polish-Russian relations. Among them were: visits of the chiefs of government and parliaments, the Polish Culture Days in Russia and Russia`s in Poland, and a gala
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