On December 23rd 2000 President of the Republic of Poland Aleksander Kwasniewski made an oath in the front of the National Assembly and took his office for the second term.
After the oath taking ceremony President of the Republic of Poland Aleksander Kwasniewski addressed the joint session of the Sejm and Senate of the Republic of Poland :
Mr. Speaker of the Sejm, Madam Speaker of the Senate, Deputies and Senators,
Ladies and Gentlemen, Fellow Compatriots,
At this solemn moment, I would like to express my great satisfaction at being able to stand before you and take the oath of allegiance to the Nation and the Constitution of the Republic of Poland. The assumption of the highest office in the state before the National Assembly is an honor and a source of personal satisfaction. It also serves as a symbol of a sovereign, free, and democratic Poland.
I am also happy to be able to meet you at this unique moment at the end of the symbolic, landmark year 2000. This year has also been unique for me: At the will of the Nation I assume the highest office for the second time. It is hard to overcome emotion at such a moment.
I will take every effort to live up to this exceptional token of trust.
I would like to thank all the Polish people - those who voted for me and those who did not. I would also like to thank my opponents in the presidential election. Poland is the home of all of us. We have respect for different opinions and views. One can take different roads to ensure the prosperity of the Homeland. I respect this principle and treat it as our national asset. In discharging the duties of the office of President, I will ensure that this asset is developed and multiplied so that all citizens are willing and able to serve their country as best as they can.
I would also like to thank my wife, Jola, whose kind heart and love has been the source of support and additional confidence and strength.
I also know that she has helped hundreds and thousands of people across Poland.
My thanks also go to my associates and friends. I want to thank again the Polish people for friendship, support, understanding, and most of all, for their cooperation.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Five years ago, my election platform was summed up by the slogans "Yes to the future" and "Common Poland". These slogans inspired me to act beyond political divisions. Wherever possible, I have sought allies and fostered agreement and cooperation. I have done so because I am convinced that the Polish people can take advantage of their historic opportunity only if they act together and focus on the challenges that lie ahead.
In eight days' time, the year 2000 and the 20th century will come to an end. I once said in this place that it is not futurologists that should be asked questions about the 21st century. We should address these questions to ourselves, as it will be up to us to provide the answers.
In the last years, we have managed to achieve a great deal by acting together. We have strengthened our state and democracy, as well as our independence and security. We boast a modern and democratic constitution. We have developed and modernized the economy. We have advanced in building a civic society by establishing additional levels of local government. We have joined NATO. And, finally, we have strengthened good neighborly relations with the neighboring countries.
These achievements should make us feel proud, satisfied, and happy. However, from the perspective of the same five-year period, I must admit that a number of problems have not been solved. I mean the scale of poverty in Poland, high unemployment, disproportion in development, lower sense of security, and corruption. In each of these areas, the Polish people's patience has been put to the most difficult test. We have not managed to find sufficiently satisfactory solutions. Nor have we demonstrated necessary determination. This should be the cause of concern for all those who feel responsible for the Polish State.
The Polish people appreciate the achievements of the last eleven years. They are full of good will and patience, taking an open attitude toward the future. But at the same time, the Polish people expect changes. They expect the president of the Republic of Poland, the parliament, and the government to improve the quality of their leadership and to ensure greater effectiveness in solving problems. I will treat the need to meet this popular expectation as my topmost duty in the new term.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I count on all the Polish people to take an active and cooperative role. I count on cooperation in reaching our common goals. Let me repeat these goals.
We have to stabilize and accelerate economic development. We have to improve and finalize the reforms, as well as to mitigate the related social tensions, the latest example of which are the current dramatic protests of the Polish nurses. We are aware of the threats: among other things, unemployment, which is growing again, or problems associated with the balance of payments. Despite economic growth, our needs are growing faster. The distance existing between Poland and many European countries means that we have to strengthen our efforts. Today, we need new incentives for growth, which will make our economy more dynamic, more efficient, more competitive, and better-positioned in international markets.
We need to urgently implement a national program for the development of education and computerization. Next century will require comprehensive and continuously updated knowledge and the ability to use latest technologies. Those who will be first to appreciate and embrace this fact will be better placed to assume a strong position among well-developed countries. And Poland has an advantage: We need not follow the steps of other countries. We can immediately start learning how to benefit from the latest technologies and be up to date in the digital world of tomorrow. All we need to do is to recognize the role of education.
We also need to keep in mind the significance of culture, which serves as a medicine for human sensitivity. The development of thought will not be possible without cultural development, rebuilding of cultural life outside big cities, educational breakthrough, and cultural education. And this is the fundamental condition for building a modern Poland, a fundamental condition for collective and individual success of the Polish people. The goal that I would like to pursue with all of you, Ladies and Gentlemen, is a culture that is not on the margins, but at the center of our attention, a culture treated as the necessary and desired environment in which we live.
We should not permit the emergence of excessive inequalities and contrasts. In many areas, they have now crossed the border of social acceptance. We have to take measures to restore the balance and to ensure equal opportunities to representatives of different social groups and different regions. In particular, we have to ensure assistance to poor talented young people as well as equal rights to women.
Furthermore, it is our duty to improve the sense of justice and personal security of the Polish people. I mean effective operation of the courts, public prosecutors, and the police. I mean saying no to the spread of corruption. I also mean an end to the practice of using the state to one's own advantage. I mean restoration of respect for qualifications and transparent rules of promotion.
Finally, Poland's accession to the European Union: It is a historic goal that we will pursue together in the five years to come. It is an exceptional challenge. Poland wants to be a member of the Union that is functioning well, is efficiently managed, and is growing fast. The decisions of the Nice summit bring such a union even closer. Poland aspires to a membership that is based on full rights, under which we will be equal to the other members both in terms of duties and rights.
We have already recorded some success in meeting this goal. However, a great deal remains to be done. In particular, we are facing difficult negotiations on such issues as agricultural policy, environmental protection, free movement of people and capital or regional policy. We need to do all this to ensure optimum solutions for Poland. We will soon participate in a referendum on Poland's accession to the Union. I believe that it will clearly demonstrate that the place of Poland is in a united Europe. I trust that it will be an informed vote, based on conviction, and supported by the determination of a wide spectrum of political forces. I would like this vote to be cast based on the understanding that the European Union is not a ready-made recipe for success, but an opportunity for growth of which we need to take advantage. We already possess a considerable potential. In the years to come, we have to increase this potential by coming to understand well the rules that are in place in the EU market, by strengthening the competitiveness of Polish companies, and, equally important and worth emphasizing before this audience, by greater confidence in ourselves. I am convinced that we are able to live up to this challenge.
The President shares responsibility for foreign policy, and I would like to say that in the last few years, Poland has achieved a great deal of unquestionable success in this area. I can see Prof. Geremek, former Minister of Foreign Affairs currently Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. But I can say this to all those who preceded and those who followed you, Professor: We have achieved a great deal together, and I would like to thank you for that. But we need to achieve even more. Poland's international position needs to be nurtured on an ongoing basis. This entails strengthening friendly relations with the neighboring countries, developing partnerships and cooperation in the region, visibility in the European forum, and effective participation in the structures of the United Nations Organization.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the time of globalization, the distance between things local and things global has shrunk considerably. Therefore, any form of international participation of the Polish citizens, businessmen and businesswomen, and politicians is becoming so important. Any forms of promotion and any steps aimed at improving Poland's image count. In the presence of the representatives of the diplomatic corps, I would like to say that the Polish people have never been egoistic in pursuing their interests. We try to look ahead and think strategically. We must not permit enclaves of poverty, totalitarian regimes, or violations of human rights or the rights of national minorities in Europe, as sooner or later they will become the source of unrest. Therefore, we stand for solidarity in Europe. We stand for the enlargement of European political and economic structures, including the structures of security. This is my understanding of Poland's mission in Central Europe and our European identity.
I am convinced that the Polish people accept the sense of the message communicated by Pope John Paul II, the greatest Pole, on the occasion of the World Day of Peace saying that "Love for one's Homeland is a value that should be cultivated, but without narrow-mindedness. It should entail love for the entire human family."
Ladies and Gentlemen, Deputies and Senators,
In legal terms, the President's responsibilities, powers, and authority are laid down in the Constitution. They are not insignificant. The Constitution provides for the President's duty to ensure the stability of the state. The President is obligated to participate in solving the country's key problems, to react to crises, and to support measures aimed at social and economic development. I would like to say that you could count on my involvement wherever the interests of the state and its citizens would require it.
The most urgent task that we are facing today is to restore optimism among the Polish people. We should be more confident that Poland is following the right direction and that we are able to achieve the ambitious objectives that lie ahead of us. We have already demonstrated that we can combine dreams with hard work and willingness to sacrifice with the ability to achieve success.
Mr. Speaker of the Sejm, Madam Speaker of the Senate, Ladies and Gentlemen, Fellow Compatriots,
I would like to extend to all of you, your families, and friends and to all the Polish people my best wishes of Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year. I wish Poland success in the 21st century. It will depend on us. I am convinced that acting together we can ensure a future worthy of the nation's greatest traditions, the expectations of its people, and its greatness.
Poland, I am at your service. I promise that I will have enough will and energy to serve you to the best of my ability.