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Friday, 31 December 2004

New Years Address by the President of the Republic of Poland, Aleksander Kwaśniewski

 Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Compatriots,

A very warm welcome to you on New Year’s Eve. It is for the tenth time running that we meet on such an occasion. It is for the first time, however, that we meet in a united Europe. It has been a year full of emotions and momentous events. Poland has passed its historic test well. The Poles have proven that they are a remarkable nation: not only brave in battle, but also conscientious at work. We do not fear new challenges. The world notes this and our neighbours appreciate this. The Republic of Poland is boldly heading into the future.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Barely eight months ago, we celebrated our accession to the European Community together. The nation’s wish had come true. Along with our friends, we are building the future of our continent, following the path of dialogue and cooperation. Today, the EU has already become part of our everyday life. We assess it calmly, unemotionally. This being the case, it is especially worth noting that the prevailing view among the Poles is that EU membership serves well the interests of our country. It brings tangible benefits to Poland’s economy, exporters and farmers. More and more local authorities and businesses benefit from EU funding. I am convinced that this process of our merging with Europe will be more and more visible and perceptible with every passing year.

Marek Belka’s government is working effectively to ensure that Poland takes full advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. A cabinet made up of experts, which has proven over the past few months that it can work efficiently and address the country’s most urgent problems. I mean thereby a continuation of economic growth, combating unemployment and sorting things out in the national health service. I also mean a reform of public finance that the government is consistently seeking to implement, the obstacles notwithstanding.

Our country has enjoyed rapid growth. At 5.5%, our GDP is growing faster than even the boldest of forecasts envisaged a year ago. It is one of the best results in Europe. Poland is increasingly becoming a place one feels like working and living in. Even so, it still remains a country full of contrasts. Most importantly, a country with the highest unemployment rate across the EU. It is a cause for concern that some of the Polish regions are at the very bottom of the list of the EU’s poorest areas. This is what makes a major part of our society, and especially young people, lose hope and self-confidence. Therefore, we must do our very best to ensure that nobody feels rejected, alone or deprived of opportunities. Poland needs all of her citizens. The Republic of Poland is a community; this is where her strength and prosperity come from.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The past year has been successful not only for Poland, but also for many of our compatriots. At the Olympic Games in Athens, Otylia Jędrzejczak won three medals in an impressive style. Our ‘golden’ sportsmen: Robert Korzeniowski, Robert Sycz and Tomasz Kucharski, once again showed their class. The Polish athletes competing at the Paralympic Games in Athens brought back home as many as 54 medals. We are pleased with the successes of our young IT experts. Students from the Poznań University of Technology and Warsaw University have won some highly prestigious competitions in the United States. One could say this has by now become something of a tradition. A beautiful tradition, indeed!
The cultural ‘Polish Year in Ukraine’, which has unexpectedly gained a special social context, as well as the ‘Nova Polska’ season in France are now under way. Each of these projects is a large-scale promotion campaign of our country. Exhibitions, concerts, theatrical productions, film shows, meetings with Polish writers: all this makes us better recognizable and more appreciated abroad.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are entering an election year. It does not often happen, indeed, it will happen for the first time, that we will elect our parliament and our president within one year. Let us prepare well for this civic duty. Poland needs our activity. Freedom and democracy are a task for each one of us! I would like to make an earnest appeal to all those who are not indifferent to the fate of our country, the fate of their communities and their loved ones, to exercise their right and go to the polls!

I am aware that many of us feel tired and discouraged. The atmosphere has been stifling at times, recently in particular. An impression appears that Poland is a country of nothing but scandals. But it is not true; such an allegation is contrary to obvious facts. In an honest portrait of Poland, the bright colours by far prevail over the dark ones. There is much more good news, even though it is not always published. Let us not be deceived: the Poles are for the most part friendly, righteous, hard-working people. We do appreciate the achievements of the Third Republic of Poland, its undeniable successes. The opinion polls published today leave no doubt: over the past 15 years, the number of citizens proud of their own achievements has grown markedly. At the same time, the number of people expressing extreme negative emotions has fallen nearly by half. These changes are great news, and a genuine reflection of the progress that has been made in Poland. Fighting against the ailments that afflict it, the Republic of Poland proves that it is strong enough to fight this battle. The process of cleansing Polish public life of corruption, dishonesty and abuse needs to continue. We need to show determination and consistency. However, this needs to be done in accordance with the democratic principles, with respect for the law. Otherwise, rather than recover, we will bring upon ourselves another illness, no less dangerous, an illness of restraining democracy and undermining the rule of law. What we need are growth and wise reforms, not a destructive revolution. A prevailing atmosphere of distrust undermines democracy, for it is a system founded precisely on trust. I am convinced that a vast majority of Poles do understand that, and that through a concerted effort we will go on working successfully to build a healthy state, in which trust in another person, faith in his or her goodwill, will remain the supreme value. This is also, I believe, the last will and testament of the great figures from Polish public life that passed away in the course of this year: Czesław Miłosz and Jacek Kuroń.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The coming year is a time of important anniversaries. We will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the events of August 1980, and thus of Solidarity. Not only was it a source of great transformations in our country, but also the beginning of a wave of freedom that swept across the region, of the wave that changed the face of the continent, allowing it to unite. We would like to make the jubilee of the Polish events of August 1980 a festive occasion for all Europeans. In 2005, we will also recall the most tragic chapters of our history. We will remember the victims of the Katyń massacre of 65 years ago. We will commemorate in an international ceremony the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, and, a few months later, the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. In May, we will receive in Warsaw the leaders of the 46 Council of Europe member states, representing nearly 800 million Europeans. We, the people of Poland, have reasons for satisfaction. We also have a goal worth persistently working for: a strong Poland in a strong Europe. The Poles believe in the future of the Community. We are in favour of further enlarging the EU. A vast majority of us want the EU Constitution to be adopted. To us, a free, democratic Europe guided by the principle of solidarity is not an empty slogan, but an idea that is very much alive, that changes our reality and stirs our imagination.

We proved that it is so during the recent events in Ukraine. The mass-scale protest against electoral fraud and manipulation staged by our neighbours and their loud appeals for truth and democracy triggered a spontaneous impulse of solidarity in the Polish people. I had the great honour to participate in mediation in Ukraine. I have a feeling that I participated in making history, that I could accomplish something momentous and good for Ukraine, Poland and the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On the threshold of a New Year, we take stock of our achievements. To me, it is a very special occasion. I am entering the tenth and final year of my presidency. And this is the last New Year’s Eve address I am making to you, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Taking my presidential vow, I said: ‘Poland, I am your servant’. It is this belief and responsibility that I have always sought to follow as my guiding principle in fulfilling my mission. What sort of president I have turned out to be for the Republic of Poland, for all Poles, it is now for you to judge. Poland’s standing in Europe and in the world is now better than it was at the time when I took office.
I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart, both on my own behalf and on behalf of the First Lady, for all the tokens and assurances of understanding, trust, friendly feelings and support that we have received from the citizens over these many years. I am sorry if I have disappointed somebody’s expectations. Thank you for the countless meetings with Poles, with so many of you, Ladies and Gentlemen. Each of these meetings enriched me. I will spare no effort to make sure that also this last year of my term wins your plaudits and goes down in Poland’s history.
It is a great honour and responsibility to be the President of the Republic of Poland. I am grateful to all those who support me in fulfilling this mission, and especially to those of my Compatriots unknown by name, who never get mentioned on the front pages of newspapers: honest, hard-working, self-sacrificing, full of goodwill and solidarity. You are Poland’s strength and hope!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We try to spend this special night with our nearest and dearest. Not everyone is lucky enough to do so. Let us unite today with all those affected by the tragic earthquake and tsunami along Asia’s coastline. The people of Poland, the entire global community, have hastened to their aid. I call upon my compatriots to show even greater generosity in this crisis. Let us show that we feel solidarity with them, that the fate of others does indeed matter to us. I salute today those who are on duty: our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, in the Middle East and in the Balkans. I offer my warmest greetings to those who are lonely, without a home and family warmth, to the ill and suffering in hospitals. Please remember, Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, our thoughts and best wishes are with you. I wish all my Compatriots, at home and abroad, good days and all the best. May you take much pride in seeing the growth of the Republic of Poland, in seeing an ever stronger Poland in a strong Europe guided by the principle of solidarity. Happy New Year!
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