"Poland needs Europe - but Europe also needs Poland!"

- Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II


"Poland Comes Home" was formed six years ago, under the patronage of President Lech Walesa and President Ryszard Kaczorowski.

We operate within The Federation of Poles in Great Britain.

Our only aims were to promote Polish entry into NATO and the European Union.

With the first of these aims successfully achieved all energies are now concentrated on getting Poland into the family of European nations in 2004 on terms which are fair and equitable.

The Chairman of Poland Comes Home is Dr Jan Mokrzycki (General Secretary of the Federation of Poles in Great Britain).

The Campaign Director of Poland Comes Home is Cllr Mike Oborski (Honorary Consul of the Republic of Poland for the West Midlands).

 

POLAND COMES HOME

Campaigning in UK in support of Polish membership of EU...


Interviews with Michal P. Garapich...

Denis MacShane, Minister for Europe...

Denis MacShane, Minister for Europe talks to Michal P. Garapich of the London based “Dziennik Polski” (Polish Daily)…

What is the current position of the British Government towards Polish participation in the EU?

We welcome Polish participation; Tony Blair had a speech in 2000 in Warsaw in which he said that he hopes that after the European elections in 2004 the Polish commissioner should seat in the commission. That speech was actually a first real pressure on the rest of Europe to accelerate the process of enlargement. I think Poland will bring a lot of benefits into the European Union - it is after all the fifth biggest country in Europe.

In advocating Turkey place in Europe You said: „Europe can never again seek to be a mono-religious entity. The constitution should affirm the freedom of all religions and the political supremacy of none" ? There are a lot of Polish voices that press about implementing "Invocatio Dei" into the European constitution. What would You tell them?

Everybody respects the Christian heritage of Europe but let us not forget that we also have a Jewish heritage, Greek and Roman heritage, various faces of Christian heritage ? catholic, protestant and orthodox. We also have now 15 million Muslims, returning to Europe, because we have to remember that in the Middle Ages and at the beginning of the Renaissance, it was Muslims that brought to Europe the heritage of Greek philosophy, mathematics and architecture to build the common European heritage we all enjoy now. So I think any specific reference to any single religion in European constitution would provoke unnecessary controversy. I think we should remember what the Bible says that: "Pay Ceasar what belongs to Ceasar and God what belongs to God”. So trying to put religion into politics in XXI century is a mistake. It is difficult to do so without devaluating the importance of Christian values.

So You are against implementing the Invocatio Dei in the European constitution?

As a catholic that goes to mass it is my personal belief that it is always a great stake to mix politics and religion. Of course, society should depend on religious values, but it is a mistake to seek to put religion into a formal constitution of Europe. Clearly, in each country people want to put a specific reference to a specific faith, that’s true all over the world, but I think in a transnational constitution that belongs to all European citizens disrespectable of their faith it would be wrong. I don’t think there would be a genuine support for such a constitution. This is a continent where believers and non-believers, all three abrahamic faiths ? Judaism, Christianity and Islam and other non-abrahamic religions, have a place of their own, and all who represent these denominations are as much European as I am.

Question of Iraq shaped new Europe ? boasted the media after the letter to "The Times" from 8 European leaders ? what do you think? Is that right conclusion? Are we seeing future alliances within the expanded EU?

I think that has been strongly exaggerated. Every government in Europe has taken different position towards the question of Iraq. At the same time during a meeting with president Chirac, the French President told the British Prime Minister that Saddam Hussein must be disarmed, and that it should be done by the United Nations. That is exactly the position of the British government. The question of Iraq is controversial which means there are many different opinions. I think we all agree in supporting the UN and making clear that all arguments on tactics stay within us, but the key object is to disarm Saddam Hussein. So the letter does not anticipate future alliances. In the future in Europe we will have bilateral alliances, trilaletaral, quadrilateral alliances and so on. If You look at the letter of eight it is signed by three social democratic governments, two conservative, one from north Europe, one from far West Europe and also some from Eastern Europe. In few weeks time there could be a different letter on an absolutely different subject signed by eight other governments.

The UK polls are not showing a great support for the euro ? merely 30%. Isn’t it worrying for a minister for Europe?

It is impossible to say. The opinion polls in Britain often show criticism to Brussels, hostility to Europe and yet when it comes to a general election in the last 20 years people have always strongly rejected an anti-European party. The last two elections were the example: The conservatives were very hostile to euro and to Europe and they have been massively rejected. 20 years ago the Labour party was in the same position of hostility to Europe and everybody massively supported Mrs. Thatcher, who was probably the most pro-European leader that Britain ever had. So there is a paradox there that I cannot resolve. The opinion polls always throughout the 30 years of British membership in the EU showed hostility and a will to keep a distance from EU, and yet when actually people come to cast their vote, they vote for the pro-European party. So maybe some Polish political scientist may explain this paradox to me, but it leaves me more confident than others that British people will not vote against their material self-interest. And when the economic arguments are sound they will say yes to the euro.

So what is the plan for the euro strategy for now?

The euro issue is quite simple though many words have been written about it. The first point is that Britain under the conservative party refused to make any preparations - unlike France and Germany where their currency have been locked together for almost 20 years. After the Maastricht Treaty the conservatives refused to prepare, so we were absolutely not ready when the euro started to operate. Secondly, the Labour government, Tony Blair’s government want the single currency to succeed, to become a stable currency - like the dollar in the US. We have no political, constitutional or political objections towards joining the single currency. The third point is that because in Britain we are rather empirical and pragmatic, we want to make sure that the economic conditions are right. That is why we are undertaking a most rigorous assessment ever in any country in the world history about changing the nature of its currency. There will be an "encyclopedia Britannica" of economic analysis published in next few months. It will allow all British people to see what the arguments are for and against. I am not in a position to prejudge on these economic tests.

Finally we have a political decision to make whether to hold a referendum, and when we will make that decision we will of course make sure we will win it. Not winning it will be damaging for Europe, not only for Britain.

How do you predict the result of the referendum?

Well, I can’t really discuss the probability of winning it until I found out what the outcome of the economic tests will be. So that limits what I can say, but I can assure You that British government is for British entry into euro, if the economic conditions are met and then we will have a referendum, we will win it and Britain will enter the euro.

How about Poland?

I would find it hard to imagine any advantage of Poland staying out of the euro. Of course the economy has to be tuned to it, but these are technical questions. In fact, for example president Bush wants a strong euro, this is after all a currency of the new Europe, if it is circulating in Kosovo, why not in Poland you may ask? But at the end it is a decision of the Polish elected politicians, not for me as a minister for Europe to comment on.

You spoke very radically against so called "money taboo" ? the secrecy of the ownership of money that plays into the hands of criminals and money-launders. How EU can tackle this? And can euro help in that?

Banking secrecy is doing great deal of damage not only to Europe but also to all honest economic actors. I think in that respect common currency would help. But the more important is the will of the banking community to end secrecy of money ownership. The cooperation of governments would be crucial here as well.

Eurosceptics often referred to the single currency as a tool of more control and losing power by the local governments...

The main advantage of the euro is the known fact of price transparency, the fact that people know the value of their money and when they enter into a contract they do not face sudden devaluation or increases in the currency value. This requires of course setting common interest rates, but after that different countries and regions within countries can adapt their local economic systems what best suits them. So as in the US there are significant variations of taxes between states, different labour market rules and different levels of economic intervention ? quite different in Tennesse than in Massachutes - so in Europe, common currency if anything, should encourage economic innovation, more fiscal creativity in different members states and also within regions of one country. It is simply about allowing people to know the value of what they produce, about a common measure and demystifying the European economy, because simply seeing the price of cup of coffee in Spain, Italy or France gives me a confidence of making a better economic choice as a single consumer.

As you may have noticed, the Polish community was a rather silent conservative voting. But now, the only (very few) politicians with Polish origin ? like you - that did enter the political mainstream are from Labour. How would you explain that phenomena? Do you have a theory of your own?

Poles in Britain naturally were feroucisly anticommunist and who could blame them after 1945? And being anticommunist at that time translated into supporting conservative position. But the great strength of the Polish spirit is that it is very free, independent and it always wants to swim against the stream, not to support established values and status quo. So many individual Poles or people with Polish background perhaps found more chance to express that sense of freedom and a wish for change in political movements that did not support the establishment and the hierarchy. The Labour party is more intoned with that spirit of wanting change, wanting freedom and more democracy.

Why so late and so little then?

My generation of Polish men and women who were born in the late 40 onwards came into adulthood in the 70. The conservative party then as a party was extremely hierarchical, status-centered, wealth-orientated. And remember, people from my generation on the left were very strongly anti-Stalinist and hostile toward communism. So we were true to the Polish tradition of wanting communism defeated while being true to the tradition of wanting a better, more fair and just society ? and that manifestly was not on offer from the conservative party in the 1980 or 1990. So I would expect now a next generation of Poles that aren’t perhaps happy with everything done by the Labour party, entering the conservative party and in 20 years time there would be British Poles sitting in a conservative cabinet.

How - in your opinion - enlarged Europe would affect national identity and also relations between the Polish Diaspora and Poland?

As Europe becomes more unified the different communities within Europeans can be more relaxed with their identity. Historically in Europe, ethnic identity was often a matter of life and death. Not any more. Unified and denser Europe means increased contacts between the Diaspora and a home country and increased awareness of everyone’s various and mixed heritage. A good example: Last week I was with Pierre Moscovicy ? his mother is Polish, his father a Romanian, but himself, he is a 100% French socialist politician and intellectual. He is very proud of his Polish background just as I am of mine, and I think we all will start to realize more and more about the interdependence of all cultures that form Europe’s plural society and multinational landscape. Closer relations between Diaspora and Home countries will be a start of the process. For example I am delighted to see that more and more British Poles that do not speak the language go to Poland to learn it or an increased number of British Poles working in Poland for Polish or British companies.

You recently had a long speech in French at the European Parliament. Does it mean that when you go in March to Poland, You will speak Polish in the Sejm?

No, no, I speak several languages and I think in order to say something you need to speak properly, unfortunately this not the case with my Polish. My father decided that I do not learn Polish, saying in the 50s. "Who will need Polish language again?" He died when I was very young so there was no chance of working on my Polish when I was a student. I deeply regret not to speak Polish, I would love to learn it, but now with my work I would find it a little bit difficult. I wish my father had made an effort although at the time everything looked as Poland is lost in the hands of communists and the future is in the mainstream English speaking only society. Now I want my children to be proud of their Polish heritage and I will be taking them back to the village where their grandfather came from. If one of them chooses to stay in Poland and learn Polish, I would be delighted.

Some of our readers and contributors did remember You from the BBC from the union. But not a lot of people do remember that You went to Poland, with funds and illegal literature to help the Solidarity Union, got arrested. Can You tell briefly about that part of Your life?

It was during the martial law; in May 1982 I was taking money from the International Trade Unions for Solidarity. This is a great lie, saying that Poles won their freedom because of the American military pressure, or CIA money. Poles won their freedom, and it wasn’t given to them by anybody. Of course America helped, Western Europe helped. I was taking money for the underground union to help with the printing facilities, I was just outside hotel Victoria, and there was a demonstration. I got arrested, had a piece of paper with an address on it and I spend two or three days in prison. Actually I appeared even in front of the Workers Court. I must be the only socialist MP to appear in front of the Workers Court and told to come back to my country. I became persona non grata and couldn’t go back until 1989.

You know you could view now the files of Polish secret police that have been made on you then?

Believe me there are files on me in many different countries maybe even my own. I leave that for my grand children. I am too busy thinking about the future to dig out the past.

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