Speech of the Prime Minister
of the Republic of Poland,
Mr Jerzy Buzek

at Paaskivi Society

"Priorities of the Polish Foreign Policy"

P> (Helsinki, 4 November 1999)

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This year we celebrate the 10th anniversary of "the autumn of nations", which, to spite astronomers and climatologists, began in Poland in June, by elections won by the "Solidarity" movement. In September 1989 the first Central European non-communist government was formed in Poland, a government which undertook the task of reconstructing democratic state structures and the mechanisms of free economy. Of particular significance was also the reconstruction of sovereign Polish foreign policy.

One of the most important decisions made by the first non-communist governments of the Polish III Republic was to declare that membership in NATO and the European Union is the strategic objective of our policy. Integration with the European and Euro-Atlantic structures stemmed from our conviction that Poland belongs to the European spiritual and civilisation sphere and that these structures allow for the realisation of our national interest. It also stemmed from the conviction that enlargement and deepening of the European structures is the only efficient method of guaranteeing peace, stability and prosperity on our continent.

Ladies and Gentlemen

Let me quote Robert Schuman: "Europe has to shape its own soul. Europe again has to become a direction for mankind. Europe is not against anything or anyone. United Europe is a symbol of all-embracing solidarity for the future".

Those words perfectly describe the present condition of Europe. United Europe is at one of the decisive moments of its history. We, Poles, want to be part of this Europe. We want to have the right to make joint decisions about its future.

Two tasks await the European Union in nearest future: acceptance of new members and deep reform of its structures. In order to achieve those tasks, Europe should assume that the main direction of its activities is the "all-embracing solidarity for the future". Without solidarity, Europe can become a bureaucratic and administrative formation that cannot influence the nations or people that create it. Shortly speaking, without solidarity there will be no unity of Europe.

In March last year Poland started its accession negotiations with the EU. In April we launched a review of the Polish legislation in the aspect of conformity with the legal acquis of the European Union. From that time, we presented our negotiation positions in 26 chapters. Our objective is to present our positions in all the chapters of negotiations by the end of 1999. We are worried, however, by the slowing down of work on part of the Union, which can reduce the speed of negotiations and implementation of plans of the Finnish Presidency.

In our opinion breaking-down negative stereotypes, which weaken the support for the process of enlargement, is now of primary significance for integration. In the difficult time of negotiations, when conflicts and crises can appear, it is necessary to strongly promote real economic advantages of integration that can be achieved by both the existing, and the new members. Frequently, the Western societies tend to forget that enlargement means not only transfer of aid funds, but also the extension of the Union's internal market up to 500 million consumers. Surplus of exports to the Central Europe has already created hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the Union. Furthermore, enlargement of the EU is a response to the global challenges and will facilitate strengthening of our continent on the social, political and security levels.

Poland expects that the agenda and the starting date of the Inter-Governmental Conference on institutional reform of the EU will be agreed during the Finnish Presidency. The outcome of the Conference will influence the role and possibilities of action of the new member states. Poland is interested in fast completion of the institutional reform, which will not slow down the process of enlargement. We hope that final decisions concerning IGC will not overload its agenda and that the broad reform will be effected after enlargement.

Ladies and Gentlemen

In March this year we became a member of NATO. We treat that as the first major success on our road of return to the family of free nations. We became a country, which is safe and occupies a firm position among the states of our region and the whole continent.

We actively participate in the debate on strengthening NATO's European pillar. In our opinion, strengthening the European Security and Defence Identity is a positive and unavoidable process. At the same time, it is in the best interest of the Europeans that those transformations do not lead to the weakening of trans-Atlantic links, which we consider to be fundamental for the efficiency of the Organisation.

At the Washington summit, I strongly supported the principle of open door. Each state has the right to make sovereign decisions about its membership in political and defence alliances. We believe that the solutions adopted by NATO will ensure the best possible background for accession to all the candidate countries. Of particular importance is the co-operation within the framework of Partnership for Peace and EAPC, as well as mutual dialogue. It is also important that the spheres for co-operation that are most useful on the way to membership in the Organisation can be indicated by the candidate states themselves.

The process of the NATO enlargement has to be accompanied by strengthening co-operation among the Organisation, Russia with Ukraine, as well as by other forms of regional and European security. Poland is of the opinion that Russia, like other states of the Euro-Atlantic area, is interested in the creation of a sphere of stability, security and economic development in Europe. However, I am worried by the fact that some forces in Russia defend their particular interests by propagating cold-war stereotypes about NATO. The same forces are responsible for slowing down of the pace of Russian reforms, to the detriment of the Russian nation and state.

Ladies and Gentlemen

Poland puts particular emphasis on pursuance of active regional policy. We have set three fundamental objectives. Firstly, to prevent new divisions on the continent. Secondly, to overcome political, social and economic differences caused by the division of Europe by the Iron Curtain. Thirdly, to ensure that the Central European region is considered by our future partners as an independent and significant policy-maker.

We pay special attention to co-operation within the framework of the Vysegrad Group. Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary do not only share a common path in the tragic history of the 20th century but also they also have common economic and political interests. We will treat the EU as a platform for deepening those interests. Thanks to solidarity and co-operation among Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, it was possible to quickly liquidate the structures of dependency that originated in the Soviet époque. The idea of regional co-operation in the field of economy was developed by CEFTA.

We would like to continue close co-operation of the Central European countries also after accession to the Union. Strengthening of what we sometimes call "the Central European dimension" of the future Union must not lead to any divisions in the Union. Co-operation among the future Central-European members in EU will not diminish our interest in problems faced by our partners in Northern or Southern Europe. The principle of solidarity and responsibility for unity has to prevail.

We support the European and Atlantic aspirations of our Baltic neighbours. We have developed especially close co-operation with Lithuania. We have formed joint commission on the Presidential, Governmental and Parliamentary levels. We have also been maintaining active contacts with Latvia and Estonia. We put special emphasis on co-operation with Ukraine. Strengthening of its sovereignty, structures of the democratic state and free market economy constitutes the best guarantee for stability of the region. Thus Poland has been offering consistent support to the pro-European and pro-Atlantic policy of Kiev. An example of our activity in this field is the launch of the Permanent Conference of Poland and Ukraine on European Integration in the beginning of 1999.

A significant role in our regional policy is played by the Council of the Baltic Sea States. It enables a constructive dialogue among the EU member states, the candidate countries and Russia. I am glad that, among other things, it has already enabled strengthening of links of mutual co-operation between Poland and Finland. I am referring, for example, to the extension of activities ensuring civil security, environmental protection of the Baltic Sea and combating organised crime. I am glad that this morning we signed a bilateral agreement on the latter issue.

Poland supports the Finnish initiative of the Northern Dimension of the EU, to be realised on the basis of the existing structures of regional co-operation, e.g. the Council of the Baltic Sea States. That initiative should be directed not only to Russia, but also to the Baltic States. The initiative of the Northern Dimension creates possibilities to increase international civil security in our region of Europe.

Ladies and Gentlemen

Completion of the project of the united Europe requires courage. Poles have never lacked it. Thanks to the courage, we were able to endure the tragic experience, which this century has not spared us. Thanks to that courage, the Central European countries will at last find their place in the European family of free nations, a place that corresponds to our aspirations.

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