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Monday, 1 October 2007

Visit to Toruń by the Presidents of Poland and Lithuania

The President of the Republic of Poland, Lech Kaczyński, and the President of the Republic of Lithuania, Valdas Adamkus, paid a joint visit to the city of Toruń on the 1st of October 2007.

The Presidents took part in the inauguration of the 2007/2008 academic year in the Nicolaus Copernicus University, during which the President of the Republic of Lithuania, Valdas Adamkus, received the title of Doctor Honoris Causa.

During the gala inauguration, the Polish President, Lech Kaczyński, said:

”I wish to express my immense satisfaction and, with it, my words of thanks to the governing body of the University of Toruń. I believe that there can be no better decision than the one to award President Valdas Adamkus with the honorary doctorate of this particular University, which, as we all know, has historical ties with the Academy of Vilnius, even though that history dates rather a long time from the present. It is worth recalling that the Vilnius Academy was the second oldest university in the Commonwealth (of Poland and Lithuania), established at about the same time as the Academy of Zamość (founded by Jan Zamoyski). The King John II Casimir /Jan Kazimierz/ University in Lwów (now Lviv) was already 80 years their junior. This is very important, for without those treasuries of our national culture that were sprouting right there - from the soil of the present Lithuanian State and from other soil in the east, our culture today would have been quite different, far from complete. However, it is equally important because, as we have repeated today, and, in particular, President Adamkus said this, the present-day Poland and Lithuania are friends after a spate of not too good two-way relations that in turn followed on over 200 years, or over 400 years (counting from the 1386 Union) of living together in our common, or almost common polity. There is nothing strange in such developments. It is simply the way of history of this European region, where nations have been awakening to life. Thus, all that every man of reason today can say about it is: Such is the way of life. Nevertheless, today we have a strong partner in the Lithuanian people, who almost 100 years ago and then again, after 50 intervening years, gave birth and, respectively, re-birth to their own State, one that just as our state has been in the European Union since not long go, and in NATO for a longer time. This is our common, great success – as President Adamkus reaffirmed today. Our common foreign policy in the past decade has been another great success. However, in my view, it has been particularly intensive in the past two years, a period of very concrete projects mentioned here, such as the difficult purchase of the Mozejki Oil Refinery against many opponents - also in Poland - a project of tremendous significance to our relations, but more or most importantly, to our joint sovereignty. Immensely significant, too, are other projects relating to the Ignalina power plant and the electric power bridge, and also, with some more time to go, to the streamlining – as President Adamkus said – of the rail and road transport connections between Vilnius and Warsaw, or, put simply, Lithuania and Poland, Poland and Lithuania.. This must improve very substantially for the benefit of enhancement of our cooperation, for the benefit of our greater joint role here, in the process of uniting Europe. Professor Adamkus was acclaimed here today as an advocate of the defence of sovereignty through integration with the structures of Europe, as well as NATO. Yes, indeed, this is one of the ways of safeguarding the sovereignty of both Lithuania and our country. I stress - safeguarding, not losing it. It makes quite a fundamental difference. It is a fundamental question of whether Lithuania and Poland, or other countries in this region or the entire EU area, are in this Union to jointly strengthen their sovereignty by 21st century standards (unlike the 19th or early 20th century ones), or whether they are in it to lose their sovereignty. Well, I believe that both President Adamkus and the present authorities of Poland want these organizations - both NATO and the European Union - to play their role right. After all, they are unprecedented in history, except for some precedents in the ancient unions of Greek cities and the Hanseatic League to a slight extent. However, those precedents are in the remote past and very unlike of what we are building today. The European developments are on all accounts positive, I repeat – on all accounts positive – on the condition that they fulfil their role well. Both Lithuania and Poland are contributing to make this happen. We join positions increasingly. We often join positions to reflect, as President Adamkus has also said, the similarity of our ways of thinking, to make sure that the rule of solidarity and cooperation substitutes the rule of the balance of power and interests – entrenched not just in the period of communism, but since the Congress of Vienna. The European Union undoubtedly is an entity that largely substitutes solidarity and cooperation for the rule of the balance of power. The important thing now, however, is only to accelerate and deepen this ongoing process of substitution. This is what our policy in respect of the European Union consists in.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Magnificences,
Mr President,

Every year I attend inaugurations of the academic year in various places. It is for me a great pleasure to be in Toruń this year, at the University where I have been as an academic teacher many a time. This University which graduated a big number of my colleagues from the University of Gdańsk, because the students in my age group could not get a law degree in Gdańsk and they usually got it in Toruń, and less so in Poznań. I am very pleased to be present here, but this also gives me a reason to say something about the situation of higher education. As Mr. Rector very rightly said, one in every twenty Poles is a student today – in fact even slightly more than one in twenty, i.e. fewer Poles fall to one student. In terms of quantity, we have achieved a very significant success. If I remember well – though I may be slightly off the precise figures – in the year 1989-90, or at the end of that past epoch, there were only 360 thousand students in Poland. Thus, we are witnessing an uncanny educational explosion at the tertiary level, an explosion that already encompasses almost a half of the generation, and even up to 70 per cent of the population in major cities. This is a great lot even on a European scale – a great, great lot. Nevertheless, the responsibility for educating such a huge number of people today is shouldered by a faculty community, which by no means has increased six times over the past twenty years. The actual increase is significant, but, if I have it right, it has not even fully doubled. In other words, we deal with a very substantial educational workload of the faculty staff. This is an obvious fact. On the other hand, we deal with the situation when not merely between 8 and 12 per cent of the population are enrolled in study – a situation that persisted in Poland for a long time, one could say the lifetime of a generation - but between 40 and almost 50 per cent are enrolled. If this is the case and if we compare the two factors that I have just mentioned, then to maintain the standard of learning as the one at the level 360 thousand students is immensely difficult. It must be clearly stated that it is downright impossible. The problem of education quality is at this point our most essential problem, I think. Certainly, it was not possible to educate Polish social scientists at the time when the sociology faculties were available only in Warsaw, Poznań, Kraków and Łódź. I remember those times perfectly well. Today, as reported by the latest Congress of Sociologists, 80 university centres in Poland educate students of social sciences. Can this produce good results that are adequate to this specialised profession? I deliberately give this specific example. I cannot but share with you my doubts about it. Thus, the problem of quality is the most essential one for today. Moreover, the quality problem means the challenge of developing exclusive higher schools, an idea which not all will certainly like. This is the task for universities above all. And this is what I would like to wish you. I realise that the funds made available for science – I am not referring to the learning budgets – have been very small in Poland for many years and they are still low, but, worth noting, they have been on the rise in the recent years, and a significant rise at that. Let us hope that this, too, will help to multiply the successes of our science on an international scale. Taking this opportunity, I wish to congratulate this University on its achievements in both physics and astronomy. The latter is already, one could say, a tradition-honoured speciality of the University of Toruń and nobody in Poland needs an explanation for that. However, quality is what matters now. Work on certain institutional solutions has been in progress, but it requires a huge commitment also on the part of the faculty.
In conclusion, to refer again to the magnificent lecture by President Adamkus - the Head of State and person with whom I meet most often and have, as Mr. President can confirm, the closest relations of all heads of state in Europe – one should say something about the tasks relating to the civic responsibilities of a higher school. These tasks are unquestionably on the agenda. However, the teaching of truth and respect for truth must consist in the teaching of respect for truth in the classical sense of this word. As we know, there are a few theories of truth. I can say that only the truth that reflects the reality, and not the truth that corresponds to one or other correctness, one or other fashion, one or other blatantly imposed ideology, only and exclusively this first mentioned truth inspires one to build. Any other truths, which should appear in inverted commas, not only fail to build, but destroy. Does that one truth mean the uniformity of beliefs? No. The choice of beliefs is above all and axiological choice. One can be, for example, an advocate of equality at the expense of even certain restrictions on freedom. One can hold a different belief – that freedom is the supreme to all the other values and that all the other values should surrender to it – I am referring here also to economic freedom. One can believe that the value of solidarity is the most essential in life and one can have other beliefs in this respect as well. Obviously, one can believe in one or other theory of economic growth and adapt one’s views to this end – this is obvious, but it does not alter the fact that the truth carries a meaning only when it truly reflects the reality. Obviously, this is not the case in present-day Poland. I see here in this room a banner caption “Down with Catholic Fundamentalism” as, indeed, there occurs such a phenomenon in Poland, but I am not sure if it applies to the guests invited to this session. I believe that this is a gross misunderstanding, one of many, but I mention it as a completely marginal note. On the other hand, it is certainly not a marginal note when I stress that the tasks of academic communities must involve the ability to demonstrate a great social insight. This is often very difficult, but without that insight, the task that I have discussed before cannot be done. One again, I thank the authorities of the University of Toruń for their excellent choice. Once again, I congratulate you heartily, Mr. President. I know that this is not the first, not the fifth and not even the tenth such Title for you, but this University in friendly Poland indeed enjoys quite a renown, Mr. President. Thank you very much.”

Subsequently, both Presidents went to the Town Hall, where they made statements for the media.

President Lech Kaczyński stated:

“Mister President, I wish to congratulate you on receiving another Title of Doctor Honoris Causa here, in the city of Nicolaus Copernicus, from the University, which has a tradition of more than 60 years, which was largely based on the pre-war faculty of the University of Vilnius which continues to thrive. I think that this is a significant event. The citation for the Title is equally significant: it relates to the cooperation between Poland and Lithuania and your role, Mr. President, in Europe and the building of Lithuanian democracy. Ladies and Gentlemen, I am a frequent guest in Vilnius and I can say that Vilnius is changing before our eyes. It shows that we have relations with a stable country, one that functions as many other European states. We have spent the recent half hour or more talking about a very significant conference to be held in Vilnius in just a few days from now. It will mark a continuation of the May meeting in Kraków, but with a broader participation. There are issues relating, of course, to the “Sarmacja” Company, but we have also had a productive discussion about Ignalina, about, what I hope, will be a great Lithuanian-Polish-Latvian-Estonian energy project. I communicated to Mr. President what is important from the point of view of Poland, as well as the point of view of the electric power bridge between our two countries. Obviously, certain details are still to be discussed, but, generally, everything is progressing very well. The meeting – I repeat – is very significant. It will be attended by high-ranking representatives of Kazakhstan. There was a representative of Kazakhstan in Kraków, but now there will be one of a higher rank. There will be representatives of Turkmenistan this time, as they were not present in Kraków. I am clearly referring now to only those states, which command huge gas and crude oil deposits, but, moreover, there will also be other leading politicians there. However, it is more appropriate for Mr. President as the host of the meeting to tell you about it. I can also say, partly quoting Mr. President here, that should the relations between Mister President and me set a model for relations across Europe, there would not be many problems.

The Polish and Lithuanian Presidents also took part in the ceremony of handover of the keys to the gates of the city of Toruń. 

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