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Wednesday, 31 December 2003

New Year’s Address by President Aleksander Kwaśniewski

On 31st December 2003 Mr. Aleksander Kwaśniewski, President of the Republic of Poland delivered a New Year’s address: Good Evening, Ladies and Gentlemen, It is a great honour and joy for me to be a guest at your homes this evening. Time is passing quickly – we meet for the ninth time. The one before the last one! A New Year’s Eve night is at hand. It is a special and magical moment, a moment of celebration, when the past meets with the future, and memory meets with hope. Therefore, let us try to break away from everyday confusion and have a look at the passing twelve months from a distance, and gather our thoughts and strength for the New Year! Ladies and Gentlemen! The year 2003 has been important, difficult and rich in dramatic events that have moved the nation and each individual citizen. I believe that they have taught us something! I have no doubt that the matter, which will go down in the Polish history is a firm “yes” to Poland’s entry into the European Union. The two-day referendum, preceded by an intense, public debate led to a good decision. We have returned to the family, from which we were excluded by the decisions of the powers after World War II. We are again at our common European home that we have been creating jointly and enriching with our culture and tradition for over a thousand years. At last we have an opportunity to build together a common Europe which is safe, developing, modern and faithful to its historical roots; and which in an act of solidarity helps poorer and weaker members of the family to make up for delays. We have made a decision that fulfills dreams of generations – about freedom, sovereignty, open borders and joint, peaceful development. We execute the will of soldiers and insurgents, members of the democratic opposition, Solidarity, creators of the “Round Table” Agreement and the system transformation, the Polish Emigration, and a great pro-European civic movement. We want a strong Poland in a strong Europe. We must and can achieve this goal! We need strength, we need order in our own backyard, we need consistency, determination and ability to persuade others and communicate with them. This evening – the last one still at the threshold of the European Union – I would like to extend my greetings to our neighbours, friends and partners. I wish to assure them that Poland believes – that we believe – in the united Europe rich in its diversity; we believe in the community guided by solidarity, where the big and the small can find chances for themselves; Europe which will ensure its citizens peace, prosperity and respect for human dignity. I wish to address special words of gratitude to our great compatriot, Pope John Paul II who celebrated the 25th anniversary of His Pontificate this year. It was Him who has reminded us that Europe needs Poland and Poland needs Europe. We are grateful that on these difficult paths of Poland, Europe and the world we can enjoy the support and the good counsel of the Holy Father. I am convinced that we will be able to use the coming months for a serious dialogue – in our country as well as in European fora – about Europe, our Europe, and Poland’s place in it. Experts’ discussions are not enough. The European idea must be widely popularized. Everything must be done to make sure that on 1st May Poland is prepared for membership in the best possible way. We must catch up on our work and fulfill obligations. We cannot count on any leniency. Ladies and Gentlemen, In the passing year the word “Poland” has been declined in foreign languages particularly often. Our country’s role in shaping the international policy has increased. We participate – while holding a clear position and speaking with a loud voice – in making decisions crucial for the future of our region, Europe, the transatlantic zone as well as the world. We have proved that we are a country that feels responsible for world peace and security. We are a loyal, predictable and tested ally, taking part in actions against terrorism, ready to engage in assistance to nations in need. Having command over the stabilization zone in Iraq, together with our allies, we give its citizens peace and hope for a better tomorrow. We want to give Iraq back to the Iraqis as soon as possible. I am convinced that this mission serves the right cause; that it will bear good fruit for Iraq and the world. I have a fresh memory of the meeting with our soldiers. They are great; our foreign partners spare no praise for them. I know that the Poles are divided over the question of our participation in the stabilization mission. But surely we are united in appreciation for the professionalism, commitment and dedication of our soldiers. Poland does not refuse to be present where one must fight for freedom, and stand out against violence, contempt for man and ethnic cleansing. These noble ends are also served by peace missions with participation of Polish soldiers in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Syria and Lebanon. Today our thoughts turn to our soldiers everywhere where they fulfill their missions. It is worth underlining that in the passing year we have been consistently developing cooperation in our region, strengthening good neighbourly relations. We were satisfied to participate in taking decisions on the enlargement of NATO and admitting seven new members into the Alliance. Our partnership with the United States has taken on particular importance and substance. Our relations with Russia have been strengthening – the climate for economic cooperation has been improving, scientific and cultural contacts have been developing. The commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the tragic events in Volhyn has helped to heal old wounds in the Polish-Ukrainian relations. Despite the heated debate on the question of expulsions, in the Polish-German contacts we keep up the spirit of reconciliation and dialogue. The meeting of the leaders of the Weimar Triangle – France, Germany and Poland – in Wrocław was difficult, but important and successful. It has been a busy year in our foreign policy, but it certainly strengthened Poland’s position in the world. Ladies and Gentlemen, We can discern many bright colours also in the picture of our domestic affairs. After years of stagnation, there is a visible economic upturn in Poland – our Gross National Product has been growing this year over three times faster than last year. Our exports are rising, inflation is kept down, the favorable climate for investments is coming back. At our universities there are nearly two million students – this is a great potential and the key to the country’s development. We take joy in the successes of the Polish science and the appreciation it gains throughout the world. We have been witnesses to many triumphs of our artists; the culture at home has become richer with new valuable works. We had unforgettable moments thanks to sportsmen. We can be proud of the Polish achievements, of those, which are popular and well known, as well as those small ones, hardly noticed by anyone, which also constitute a common success of our homeland. The image of this year, however, also contains dark colours, the events that do us no credit. Too often our daily news abounded in shocking revelations, uncovered scandals, signals of corruption. We have discovered a lot of failures in the way the state functions. It turned out that the procedures of law making are not transparent. There appeared well-founded fears that behind some of the decisions there had been dishonest lobbying hidden, and that the behaviour of some public figures was in conflict with moral standards. There were objections concerning the style of executing power. This must be changed. Unresolved social problems are also cause for concern. Unemployment and poverty still affect thousands of Polish families. For many people this is a personal tragedy. This Poland fills us with grief and worry. No one can be satisfied as long as so many people feel excluded and unwanted. We should not accept this state of affairs. Poland is a motherland for all of us, and lot of each citizen is equally important to her. Ladies and Gentlemen, The year 2004 is ahead of us – a year of difficult tasks and great hopes. We must do everything to reinforce positive trends in the economy. This goal is well served by simplifying the tax system, curbing bureaucracy, fighting against corruption. Nevertheless, a reform of public finance that is being prepared by the government is going to play a decisive role. This is a difficult plan that arouses a lot of controversy, but its success will assure Poland and each of us a safer tomorrow. That is why I hope that it will meet with understanding and support of all the responsible political forces. I trust that we will take the June election to the European Parliament seriously. That it will be a successful test of our civic activity and involvement in the European affairs. We are not powerless either in the face of threats and evil at home. I believe that we are able to take up struggle for a better quality of public life in Poland. This depends not merely on politicians, with whom special responsibility rests, but also on all circles that have an influence on our affairs: from civil servants to entrepreneurs to media people. We cannot forget about ethical conduct in great affairs, but also in small matters of everyday life. Building Poland that is respectable and guided by the idea of solidarity is after all a task for each of us. Ladies and Gentlemen, my Fellow Countrymen, In the evening of New Year’s Eve we extend wishes to one another, we thank our closest families for the fact that they just are; for the care and warm feelings they have for us, for their devotion and love. Addressing you, Ladies and Gentlemen, just as someone who is very close to me, I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for all who support and strengthen our country with their everyday efforts. I also thank those who cannot celebrate tonight – as they are on duty, working or taking care of the ill. Our hearts are with you today! May the New Year of 2004 fulfill our hopes for a strong Poland in a strong Europe, for an economic development and new jobs, and for honesty and reliability of public institutions as well as in relations between people. Together with my wife I wish you peaceful, prosperous days. I wish all the Poles – here at home and those scattered all over the world – health, success, fulfillment of their dreams. May the coming year be good and happy. All the best!
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