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Wednesday, 17 September 2003

Official visit of the President of the Republic of Poland with Spouse to Norway – the second day

September 17, 2003 on the second day of the visit President Aleksander Kwaśniewski with Spouse were in Bergen, the second largest city in Norway. Presidential couple was accompanied by Their Majesties King Harald V and Queen Sonja. At the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration President Kwaśniewski gave the address: “Political and Economic Challenges in Poland” Ladies and Gentlemen! They say that if you have not been to Bergen, you have not been to Norway at all. Thus, I am very happy to be here. It is for me a genuine pleasure to be visiting this beautiful Hanseatic city, the medieval royal abode, the home town of Edvard Grieg, the capital of the fjords and also one of Europe`s Cultural Capitals. I always welcome with great interest any invitation to a talk about Poland. My visit here gives me special satisfaction. The Norwegian School of Economics and Management (Norges Handelshøyskole, NHH) is Norway`s biggest and most prestigious research and education centre in the field of business management and administration. Close relationships between the Bergen School and Poland are the source of particular joy. Your School cooperates with the Main School of Commerce in Warsaw and University of Gdańsk, where I studied in the 1970s. In 1991, acting in association with Paris-based Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales, London Business School and the Technical University of Warsaw (Politechnika Warszawska), you launched The Poland Project. Consequently, the post-graduate Business School opened in Warsaw. The project proved to be successful and is continued. Your School`s contribution to it had the financial support of the Norwegian government. Today`s meeting is a good opportunity to thank for all of this! Ladies and Gentlemen! I wish to tell you a few words about Poland`s history and its current affairs, and to emphasise our over one-thousand-year long presence in the circle of the European civilisation. While benefiting from Europe`s cultural wealth, we have always made our own creative contribution to it, such as scientific accomplishments of Nicolaus Copernicus, Maria Curie-Skłodowska and Aleksander Wolszczan, who have transformed our vision of the world, music by Frederic Chopin, Krzysztof Penderecki and Wojciech Kilar, works of our Nobel Literary Prize Laureates – Henryk Sienkiewicz and Władysław Reymont, Czesław Miłosz and Wisława Szymborska, the figurative art of Magdalena Abakanowicz and Andrzej Wajda`s films. And finally, institutions and law which as early as centuries ago bore fruit of tolerance, building democracy and Europe`s first written democratic constitution. The “Iron Curtain”, which after World War II had halved our continent, left Poland cut off from the mainstream of Europe`s development for almost 50 years. On several occasions the Polish people demanded democratic freedoms and the respect for human rights. The “Solidarność” Movement in 1980 and then the “Round-table” agreement” in 1989 initiated great historic changes. We regained sovereignty and have returned to the European family. Henrik Ibsen, a great Norwegian dramatist and poet, who worked here at the theatre in Bergen in the mid-19th century, used to say that the spirit of law and the spirit of freedom were the pillars of society. Now, after 14 years of transformation we understand this better than ever before. Over this time of legal reform and self-governance development, we have accomplished a democratic reconstruction of our State. We have laid down foundations for the civil society, while safeguarding respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. We have streamlined our economy, taking it out of a deep crisis. We started our transformation process with empty shop shelves and a three-digit inflation rate. Since 1990 Poland`s GDP has risen by more than 50 percent. From the inflation rate exceeding 500 percent we have come down in the recent years to less than one percent, the level significantly below the European average. In the past almost two-thirds of our foreign trade used to be assigned to states of the „eastern-camp”, belonging to the Comecon. Today Poland`s trade turnover with the European Union in export accounts for 68,7 percent and in import – for 61,7 percent. In place of obsolete industries we are now developing companies specializing in advanced services and technologies. A great challenge for our country after initiating the transformation in 1989 was to get involved in the integration process of Europe, and to permanently anchor Poland among the most advanced and stable states of our continent. The first great objective of the Polish foreign policy was to ensure our country`s security through membership in NATO, which we eventually joined in 1999. We are grateful to Norway, who as a NATO member had supported our efforts from the very beginning. Today we are allies, and Polish and Norwegian officers – as in the battles of Narvik over 60 years ago – serve again the common cause of maintaining peace and security in Europe and all over the world. The other strategic goal of Poland`s foreign policy is membership in the European Union. The Poles have been heading for this goal irrespective of political divides. All of the successive Polish governments and above all, the entire nation, have been engaged in this process. Without the nation`s consent, and the acceptance of tough reforms and the burden of the transition, a successful conclusion of the negotiations and hence, signing of the Accession Treaty would have been impossible. A vivid confirmation of this consent was the outcome of the national referendum last June, when 77% of the Poles said firmly “yes” to the European Union. Poland and Norway always enjoyed strong economic ties. Also today our states are linked by cooperation which is extending over more and more new areas. We attach great hopes for further progress in this cooperation to Poland`s membership in the European Union. Norway, although not a member of the EU, is closely connected with the Community through the European Economic Area. With the accession to the Union, Poland, too, will become part of this system. This fact will have far-reaching effects on further growth of cooperation between Poland and Norway. I hope that this will contribute to strengthening Poland`s position as Norway`s number one economic partner among the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The forthcoming date of Poland`s accession to the EU has already visibly boosted Norwegian investors` interest in our country. Moreover, we will continue to seek to extend and enhance our cooperation with Norway within the Council of the Baltic Sea States. We are interested in its further development. We perceive the Council as an important platform for contacts. Following the enlargement of the European Union and appropriate readjustment, the Council will remain a significant regional organisation. Its structures may become very good instruments for implementing the EU`s Northern Dimension or New Neighbourhood Policy. We are ready to represent the Norwegian interests in the Community. Ladies and Gentlemen! Like many other countries of our continent, Poland has experienced economic problems in the recent few years. But today we can already afford a measure of optimism. Our economic locomotive is picking up speed. We owe this mainly to good performance in industry, market services, internal and foreign trade. Growth in investments is obviously the best proof of economic revival. Poland has seen significant improvement in this area, too. For some time now, at manufacturers providing capital goods, production has been growing more quickly at those ones which produce consumer or supply goods. This means that the capital goods manufacturers expect a rise in demand for their products. And most likely they will not be disappointed as funds available for investment are going up. Companies operating on the Polish market record better and better financial results (with their net profit over the recent six months rising over four times faster than a year before). We also note with satisfaction an increase in labour effectiveness. It turns out that in the group of countries about to join the EU, it is Poland that has demonstrated the highest labour effectiveness rise in the past eight years. The growth dynamics, as reported by the International Labour Organisation, has reached 5% annually. The corresponding rate for the EU has been 1,3 percent. Economists mostly agree that this year we will reach 3 percent GDP growth. Some predict even better results. The government is planning to see the GDP grow at as much as 5 percent next year and respectively at 6 and 7 percent level in the years of 2005 and 2006. This tendency is to go hand in hand with such measures as, for example, reducing corporate income taxes as well as other growth incentives. We attach great hopes to this ever more visible economic revival. We have still quite a lot of problems that we need to solve as soon as possible. Unemployment is the biggest challenge. Projections indicate that the unemployment rate – now at nearly 18 percent – will be gradually decreasing. In this context, the young people of Poland are our great hope. The number of Polish young people at school is much higher than in some of the countries in Europe. Secondary and high schools today enrol 7 million young Polish girls and boys. Universities register 1 800 thousand students – an impressive score even on the continental scale, as the total number of university students in Europe today is about 13 million. We opt for education and the development of science, because nobody can reasonably deny that these are the best investments that modern states and societies can make for the 21st century, the key to success in many areas. They are prerequisites of Poland`s participation in the global technology transformation and civilisation progress. Entirely new opportunities will be opening up for the Polish economy with the accession to the European Union on 1st May next year. We will thus enter the circle of one of the world`s most developed markets. We will benefit from freedom of movement of people, capital, goods and services. This will also mean a faster inflow of investments and new technologies. Experts estimate that within the first decade of the accession, foreign companies will have invested in Poland from about 130 to 170 billion dollars. These investments will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. Money will also flow directly from the EU budget. In the first three years from the day of accession, it will amount to nearly 6 billion euros. These funds will go into projects such as building roads and highways, development of rural areas and advancement in living standards of inhabitants from those areas, protection of the natural environment and improvement of competitiveness of Polish companies. We shall do everything we can to catch up with the best. Ladies and Gentlemen! I wish to firmly underline that Poland is not joining the European Union for economic reasons alone, although this is an important issue and it would be hypocrisy to deny it. The reason of fundamental significance is the captivating vision of this Community, of Europe that is strong, united and guided by solidarity ideals, Europe of modern democracy and human rights. Such Europe has been our dream for a long time. Deeply trusting that – together with our eastern and southern neighbours – we would join this Europe one day, we launched in the recent decade integration initiatives in our region of the continent. Experiences that we have gained in this cooperation represent today our great, common capital of the region and also of the Community. For years we have been building a network of cooperation that encompasses over a dozen states from the Baltic to the Adriatic and Black Seas. We would like the countries located in this large belt of land to share the maximum of understanding, confidence, security, stability and cooperation. We believe that the states of Central, Eastern and Southern Europe – both those on the way to NATO and the European Union as well as those remaining outside these structures – should strengthen their mutual ties and exchange their experiences. It is with this idea in mind that in July last year I presented the so-called Riga Initiative. Its basic directions of regional cooperation include support for transformation processes and a joint fight against international terrorism and organised crime. This Initiative is designed to prevent a sense of rejection in those states that will remain outside the Euro-Atlantic structures, and to counteract their exclusion from the European relations. It is crucial not to allow a split of the region into states of the first and the second league. Poland is of the view that one should share security, freedom and growth opportunities with others. Thus, as a member of the European Community, we will exert an impact on the shape and implementation of the EU eastern policy. We want to be a spokesman for those states of our region which will still have to wait for the accession. We believe that our stance will yield good effects. After all, we have already taken up a similar role before, though within another body, namely the Atlantic Alliance. And now we are pleased with the decision made by the NATO Prague Summit to invite the next 7 states to membership. We want the door leading to the Atlantic Alliance to stay open. This is part of our vision for the future of the region, continent and transatlantic area. We believe that NATO – with its transatlantic relationship resting on two pillars of Europe and the USA – has been and will be the best guarantor of security and stability, both on our continent and in the world. Ladies and Gentlemen! There is no doubt that we are close to each other. Alongside many years of our political, economic and cultural cooperation, we, the Norwegians and the Poles, have also shared ties of quite personal nature. I have in mind, for instance, a turbulent relationship between a poetess and playwright, Dagny Juel, and a man, alike her, of restless spirit – a prosaist, playwright and essayist, Stanisław Przybyszewski. I am thinking about the ancestral roots of the magnificent Norwegian jazz saxophone player, Jan Garbarek, whose family comes from the region of Wielkopolska. I am also thinking about dozens of Polish-Norwegian marriages. We are tremendously pleased with ever more numerous Polish-Norwegian contacts initiated by young people and non-governmental organisations. In our opinion, they will most effectively prevent the emergence of new divides on the continent in the wake of the NATO and EU enlargements. Learning about each other, making acquaintances and friends are one of the strongest foundations of trust, security, good neighbourhood, cooperation, and hence of our common prosperous future. Ladies and Gentlemen, as I am now facing such a large group of young people, let me recall in conclusion the words of our great poet, national bard, Adam Mickiewicz, who exhorted: “Come together, you young friends! Happiness for all furthers our own ends”! Although he wrote this appeal in the 19th century, it remains valid today. Thus, I appeal to young people, also those gathered here today: do everything possible to turn the prosperity of our continent into an enduring value. I am sure that nobody can do it better than you can. Next President Kwaśniewski with Spouse, together with Their Majesties King Harald V and Queen Sonja took a short walk along the Bergen quay. In the evening they listened to the concert “Three times Chopin” performed by Polish musicians.
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