Prime Minister of Poland

Speech made to the Assembly

Tuesday, 30 January 1990

Europe is living through an exceptional period. Part of our continent, torn up from its roots almost half a century ago, is now aspiring to return. Back to Europe! This expression is gaining currency these days in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Politicians and economists are speaking of a return. The same applies to members of the cultural world, although it was easier for them to feel they still belonged to Europe: Europe was felt to be their spiritual home, a community of values and traditions. Perhaps the expression “back to Europe” is too feeble to describe the process we are experiencing. One should speak rather of a European renaissance, the rebirth of the Europe which virtually ceased to exist after Yalta.

My presence here among you is a sign of this rebirth, a sign of the renascent feeling of European togetherness and solidarity which was all too often forgotten in the past. With these remarks, I also wish to call to mind all those among whom a sense of European community and solidarity has remained alive. I am thinking of those who publicly voiced their protest against acts of violence such as the invasion of Hungary in 1956 and that of Czechoslovakia in 1968. I am also thinking of all our Western friends who, after the establishment of the state of emergency in 1981, afforded us both moral and material support. At various times throughout these difficult years for us, the personal contacts established in this way helped to create a most valuable network which still subsists and which now offers a priceless foundation for rebuilding the political and economic components of a true community with the other countries of our continent.

The Polish people are acutely aware of belonging to Europe and the European heritage. They are as conscious of this as are the other European peoples situated at the cultural crossroads adjacent to the superpowers, experiencing alternating phases of political existence and non-existence and hence feeling the need to strengthen their identity. In all these situations, Europe has always remained a beacon, an object of affection which the Poles felt ready to defend. The idea of being the “ramparts of Christendom” and, by the same token, of Europe itself has remained alive in Poland throughout three centuries. Europe is therefore present in the Polish conscience as a value which it is worth living for and sometimes, indeed, dying for. But at the same time, Poland has borne a grudge against Europe and this sense of reproach has remained engraved to the present day on our collective consciousness. We continue to regard Europe as an ideal, the home of liberty and the rule of law, and we continue to relate closely to it, but we also continue to feel reproachful because of Yalta, because of the division of Europe and for having been left on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

Today, however, now that the return to Europe, the renaissance of Europe as a single entity, is becoming more and more of a reality, we are wondering more and more frequently what we have to offer, what our contribution can be today to the European treasure house. I believe that we do have a lot to offer. Our contribution to Europe is both our strength and our weakness.

We are like someone recovering from a serious illness. For years we have undergone the tremendous pressure of totalitarianism but we have stood firm. However, we are still convalescing. Our economy is still in a critical condition which we are trying to alleviate; the democratic institutions of our state are only just being resuscitated and rebuilt. But we have acquired experience which we shall not forget and which we shall pass on to others.

If we have managed to survive as an entity, we owe this partly to our deep attachment to certain institutions and certain values regarded as the norm in Europe. We owe it to religion and the Church, our attachment to democracy and pluralism, human rights and civil liberties and to the ideal of solidarity. Even when we were unable to give these values their full potential or put them into practice in our public life, we still held them in esteem, we clung to them and struggled for them and therefore we know them and know their value. We know the price of being European, the price of the European heritage which Westerners today have inherited without even having to pay the rights of succession. We can remind them of this price. We therefore offer Europe our faith in Europe.

Today, we are lodging an application for membership of the Council of Europe. We desire to “achieve a greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles which are their common heritage and facilitating their economic and social progress”. We wish to share in promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Council of Europe, which has performed wonders in the defence of rights and freedoms and which is a rich fountainhead of European ideas and initiatives, seems the right place for Poland, which has itself achieved a great deal in the defence of these same rights and freedoms.

Ladies and gentlemen, the gash across Europe symbolised until recently by the Berlin Wall can now begin to heal. This can be a fascinating process, although undoubtedly a very complex and lengthy one. And yet today, as opposed to yesterday, the principal political requirements exist, or are taking shape, which will make this process possible.

Our country is confronted with the enormous task of reconstituting the rights and the institutions that characterise modern democracies and rebuilding a market economy, after an interruption of several decades. Added to this, there is the need to overcome enormous economic problems. We not only have to re-create rights and institutions but, in cases where they were non-existent, we have to start from scratch. Otherwise, our two European worlds will never manage to live in harmony.

Poland has already set to work. The government which I have been leading for barely five months has drafted and had enacted numerous laws which provide a legal framework for the independence of the judiciary, for freedom of the press and freedom to organise, for freedom to found political parties, and for local self-government which, with the forthcoming municipal elections, will soon become effective. We are preparing a new Constitution of the Polish Republic which will become a democratic state subject to the rule of law, which it has already become.

Since the beginning of this year, we have embarked upon a very difficult economic programme, one which aims not only to check inflation but also to establish the foundations for a modern market economy, after the pattern of the institutions which have proved their worth in the highly developed European countries. We intend to continue along this path, successively introducing new elements, among which importance will be attributed to reforming the system of ownership and introducing certain forms of state intervention and social protection within the market economy. We shall gradually develop this system in accordance with our possibilities. We wish our future economic system to combine effective mechanisms for stimulating production with adequate protection for the social groups which require assistance within a free and competitive market economy.

Furthermore, in collaboration with our partners in the CMEA (Comecon), we have taken far-reaching steps to reform the organisation which, in our view, should be based on free consent between the states which feel it is in their interest to be members and deal jointly with matters which they believe call for concerted measures and action. We have no desire to create closed associations cut off from the rest of the world, not only by frontiers but by customs barriers. We wish to avoid that so as not to create a Europe where economic walls have replaced the political ones.

We know you also favour an outward-looking policy and this is all to the good, for otherwise there would be a hidden obstacle preventing us from making progress towards each other, despite the desire for rapprochement which is clearly expressed in all the current appeals for an undivided Europe.

Ladies and gentlemen, just as the Berlin Wall not so long ago was both the symbol of the divided Europe and a physical barrier splitting Germany into two separate states, so its collapse, while offering an opportunity to unite Europe, at the same time raises the problem of German unification. No people can be denied the right to live within the same state. But the division of Germany resulted from a major disaster caused by the Nazi state which destroyed tens of millions of human lives. It is therefore not at all surprising today if, at a time when the prospect is emerging of a reunited German state, the memory of this disaster arouses anxieties which cannot be alleviated even by obviously weighty counter-arguments, such as the fact that today the situation is different and the Germans themselves are different. We acknowledge these arguments. But we must understand these anxieties and overcome them by settling the German question with the agreement of all the interested parties and in a manner which, from the outset, will offer a credible sense of security to all those who require it and which, above all, will guarantee the inviolability of the western frontier of Poland.

Ladies and gentlemen, the upheavals in Central Europe and the Soviet Union create unparalleled opportunities but also carry risks. In some countries, the supporters of the old regime are no longer in a position to determine the course of events but can still impede it. In others, although they are on the defensive, they have not given up hope, and have not lost the capability, of regaining their former position. If severe symptoms of destabilisation, together with economic chaos, were to persist, these people’s chances would increase. They will diminish if the nations in our region, who at the moment are proving active, can carry through the crucial transformations resolutely but as calmly as possible, and above all if they can resist the temptation to try to achieve everything at once, because such an approach is often counterproductive.

Another danger is that of Balkanisation of part of the European continent, or of the various countries, because of acute tensions between the peoples or states, tensions whose origins lie in the present as well as in the past. If partisan or national interests were to surface and the notion of regional or European interest were to be lost sight of, it would be a major obstacle to establishing healthy co-operation and mutual understanding in this continent of ours which is in the throes of change.

But the events unfolding in Central and Eastern Europe, although they carry risks, are first and foremost an unbelievable and historic challenge. And although obviously the challenges are mainly for us, the people of Central Europe, they are also a historic challenge and a task for the whole of Europe. The scope is vast. There is room for Western Europeans who see what we are trying to do and believe in our aims. With them – with you – it will be easier to narrow the distance between us. The wall which divided free Europe from enslaved Europe is down. Now we have to fill in the gulf between poor Europe and affluent Europe. If Europe is to be a “common home” whose door is open to all, such great disparities cannot be allowed to continue. A huge job of work awaits us all.

We now need new guidelines to point our endeavours down a common European road, to no one’s exclusion and everyone’s advantage. It is not easy to chart such a course, for it takes thought and collaboration. But as, in your part of the continent, post-1992 Europe is even now taking shape, why not start thinking in terms of the whole of Europe of the year 2000? To be realistic, what kind of Europe might that be if we unite our efforts?

It will certainly not be a European area with free movement of goods, capital and people but it might be a Europe where borders and tariffs would be much less of an obstacle, a Europe wholly open to the young. For the fate of our continent depends on what kind of young people we bring up.

It might be a Europe in which contact between the creative and the scientific communities, fostering permeability of national cultures and thereby bringing them closer together, will be richer than it is today.

It will not be a Europe with a common currency but it might be a Europe in which economies will be complementary and where differences in living standards will be smaller and international economic exchange richer.

It might also be a Europe with a healthy climate, pure water and unpolluted soil, an environmentally clean Europe.

But above all it will have to be a Europe which has made distinct progress towards disarmament, a Europe which will make an impact on the rest of the world as a factor for peace and international coexistence.

By applying our minds, we could find many other spheres of social life which we could arrange better in this last decade of the twentieth century. We need but apply ourselves to the task.

In this continent of ours, there are institutions in which a labour of this kind has long-term prospects, because it has already been going on quite a while. One of these institutions is the Council of Europe, one of whose aims is to achieve greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles which are their common heritage and facilitating their economic and social progress.

Now that events are speeding up in Europe, it is beginning to be possible for us – states, groups and organisations – to reflect about these matters together, and we can glimpse the possibility of and need for pan-European structures to take charge of these tasks.

I think the time has come to realise the “common home” and the European confederation which eminent statesmen have recently proposed. It is time to establish institutions genuinely encompassing the whole of Europe.

That is why I would draw attention to the suggestion I recently put forward in our parliament for a Council for European Co-operation, embracing all signatories to the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE). The council would have two functions: firstly, to make preparations for summit meetings of the CSCE states and, secondly, to examine pan-European problems which may arise between regular meetings of CSCE states. We think this would lend much-needed impetus to the CSCE process and at the same time facilitate future initiatives concerning our continent and aiming to secure its unity.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am addressing you in Strasbourg, the capital of Europe, a city which, like our country, has often been caught up in the turmoil of history, a city which has several times changed hands and has wondered about its identity, but also a city which, though the capital of a region which has been fought over since time immemorial, a place that has suffered the ravages of revolution, is now an oasis of peace and prosperity. This city is a symbol of hope for us who live in the heart of Europe, where echoes of age-old quarrels are still audible. Today the whole of Europe is faced with the historic challenge of restoring its unity. Will we be equal to it? That depends on us and on you. Over a year ago, Pope John Paul II, addressing the Parliamentary Assembly, said:

“The member countries of your Council are aware that they are not the whole of Europe: in expressing the fervent wish for intensification of co-operation, already sketched out, with other nations, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, I feel that I share the desire of millions of men and women who know that they are linked by a common history and who hope for a destiny of unity and solidarity on the scale of this whole continent.”

When he said that, probably no one suspected the climate would become auspicious and that his hopes would begin to be realisable.

Among Strasbourg’s many symbols, on the cathedral façade are statues of the wise virgins and the foolish virgins. Let us be wise virgins. Let us be capable of recognising a historic juncture and rising to its challenge – cautiously, boldly and clear-sightedly. (Applause)


I think, Mr Prime Minister, that the applause illustrates how much we appreciate what you have said. Thank you very much for such an interesting speech.

We now come to oral questions. I propose, Mr Prime Minister, that you answer each question in turn. Roughly twenty-five or twenty-six people have indicated that they wish to ask questions. We must close at 12.30 p.m., so I hope that everyone will be as brief as possible so as to give everybody a chance. I call Mr Birraux.

Mr BIRRAUX (France) (translation)

I have taken note, Mr Prime Minister, of your wish to open up markets and to move towards a market economy.

In this context, I should like to know what financial guarantees are planned for industrialists wishing to invest in Poland.

Mr Mazowiecki, Prime Minister of Poland (interpretation)

said that guarantees had been given by several countries which had also offered financial credits to Poland. There were, furthermore, general, political safeguards in the form of the stabilisation of Poland’s political situation.

Mr FASSINO (Italy) (translation)

I should like to thank you, Mr Prime Minister, for your most interesting statement, and to ask you a brief question.

In view of President Gorbachev’s recent proposal concerning a complete overhaul of Comecon, turning it into an economic community run under a totally different set of rules to the current ones, and in view of the difficulties which may be encountered in moving away from economic and financial autarky, until now based principally on barter deals – with the result that a superpower like the Soviet Union accounts for no more than 4 % of world trade – to a different system, do you consider that the Soviet leader’s proposal for Comecon reform is feasible, or do you rather believe that a new form of economic association permitting greater contacts with the West would represent a better response to the pressing needs of the East European countries, including Poland and the Soviet Union?

Secondly, given that events in Eastern Europe have shown – as you have yourself in part pointed out – that the market economy represents the only way of achieving balanced political, economic and social development in your country, and in the light of Poland’s determined desire for renewal, which you have expressed to us today in very clear terms, what liberalising measures have you introduced or do you intend to introduce in reconstructing your country’s economy?

Mr Mazowiecki, Prime Minister of Poland (interpretation)

said that the question of the reform of Comecon had been raised, including a proposal for free co-operation between individual countries, with the eventual aim of Poland becoming a member of the EEC.

Mr ATASEVER (Turkey) (translation)

Prime Minister, supposing the economic situation in Poland were to deteriorate drastically in the very near future, do you think Solidarity would continue to have the general support of the Polish population or, are we to expect a multi-party coalition in the future? Would that be a possibility? Parallel to the political and economic changes in Poland, the West is becoming increasingly interested in investing in your country. My question, Mr Prime Minister, is this: Would you, in order to protect Polish firms, impose export restrictions on foreign firms who invest in your country and intend to export to the West from Poland?

A further political question: I must apologise to our Greek colleagues, but it was said here yesterday that Mr Vassiliou is the present Prime Minister of Cyprus. As far as we, Turks, are concerned, he is Prime Minister of Southern Cyprus, whereas Dr Rauf Denktash governs Northern Cyprus. Thank you. (Protests)


Order! I invite the Polish Prime Minister to answer only the first question.

Mr Mazowiecki, Prime Minister of Poland (interpretation)

said that the people of Poland understood the problems; the future was uncertain but the programme of reforms would continue. Solidarity would remain as a trade union, a social and political movement. However, new political parties were being set up. The question of import and export controls simply did not exist.

Mr HARDY (United Kingdom)

Does the Prime Minister consider that in Poland, and perhaps in other East European countries, there is a risk of such a degree of political fragmentation as might imperil the maintenance of an adequate level of administrative capacity, and that out of that situation there could be engendered political opportunism of the worst kind, which may happen even despite the depth of faith, which is of manifest value, and the greatness of spirit of the Polish people?

Will the Prime Minister also consider whether any threat to the maintenance of adequate administrative capacity might mean that economic change would see the frontiers of the state rolled back not to the point where that assisted liberty but to the point where it assisted greed?

Mr Mazowiecki, Prime Minister of Poland (interpretation)

said that such transition which was as complex as it was necessary involved risks, some of which could not be envisaged.

Mr MOREIRA (Portugal) (interpretation)

said that Poland had led the way in reforms and had even been the country in which the present Pope had been born. He asked what the present role of religion was and whether there had been a reconciliation between the Church and the Communist Party.

Mr Mazowiecki, Prime Minister of Poland (interpretation)

said that reconciliation had not arisen because the Church had already played an essential role in the foundation of human liberties, and now served as a stabilising force.

Mr PINI (Switzerland) (translation)

Mr Prime Minister, allow me from the outset to say how much I admire and am in favour of what you are doing, and also what you have said today, which is an event in itself.

You are the first, among your colleagues from the countries of Eastern Europe who have spoken in turn from this rostrum, to have talked about the “confederal” solution in the context of the common European home.

Do you think that a federalist solution – and I emphasise this word – would make it possible today to settle the disputes existing between certain still centralist states and their internal ethnic or religious minorities? I am thinking in particular of situations in the Baltic countries, and of other situations in Europe, where the system of power resulting from the historical process of centralisation generates disputes and conflicts with internal minorities.

Mr Mazowiecki, Prime Minister of Poland (interpretation)

said that it was necessary to understand that there had always been national differences and even conflicts within Europe, but a peaceful future depended on co-operation within Eastern and Central Europe. Respect for differences ran parallel to the need for common action.

Mr AHRENS (Federal Republic of Germany) (translation)

Prime Minister, in your speech just now you made a very interesting suggestion, namely that a council be established to encompass the whole of Europe, and to further, prepare, and lend impetus to the work of the CSCE.

Would it not be conceivable to extend the Council of Europe along those lines and turn it into a pan-European Council, whereby it would also be possible to allow other states to participate in this task, in the same way, for example, that we hold annual debates on OECD?

Mr Mazowiecki, Prime Minister of Poland (interpretation)

replied that the Council of Europe had no competence in security and disarmament. He envisaged building upon the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, perhaps by means of “Helsinki 2”. He did not envisage a rival to the Council of Europe.


My question concerns the division of labour between the Council of Europe, as a potential all-European organ, and the other more regional organs. For example, in the context of the EEC and the Comecon countries, how do you look upon the Council of Europe? Do you think that it is a more important organ for all-European co-operation, politically speaking? My question is also relevant to the previous question.

Mr Mazowiecki, Prime Minister of Poland (interpretation)

refused to discuss details. The pace of European history was accelerating. What was needed was not generalisations about federation but tangible co-operative actions. He was not wedded to one form or another.

Mr LOPEZ HENARES (Spain) (interpretation)

asked what Poland’s timetable was for free elections and for privatising state enterprises.

Mr Mazowiecki, Prime Minister of Poland (interpretation)

said that some agricultural monopolies had already been broken up. The next steps were to promote competition and to privatise shops and small businesses. The reprivatisation of big companies would come next, but gradually and in a controlled way.

As to democracy, censorship had been abolished, and laws to permit free association were on the way. The next steps would be real municipal self-government, with free municipal elections, and constitutional changes leading to free elections at national level.

Mr REDDEMANN (Federal Republic of Germany) (translation)

Prime Minister, you have expressed your country’s interest in becoming a full member of the Council of Europe. I think that no one here today could contradict that wish. On the contrary, I should like heartily to congratulate you for having made the application.

However, I should like to make a request. Since Poland served as the avant-garde in the freedom movement in Central and South-East Europe, you were forced to reach a compromise during round-table talks in order to push communist rule aside. As a result of that compromise, your Parliament has not yet been elected according to a completely free democratic process, such as is now being implemented in the other Warsaw Pact states. We face a certain identity crisis in the Council of Europe if we accept a country whose parliament has not yet been elected as freely as is required under our Statute.

I should therefore like to request you to let us know as soon as you find the opportunity to complete the democratic process in Poland so that we can rapidly accept your country in the Council of Europe, not only as a guest but as a full member.

Mr Mazowiecki, Prime Minister of Poland (interpretation)

said that, although the Polish Lower House had not been freely elected, the Upper House had, and Parliament already had a democratic character. Municipal democracy must come next. Reforms in so many areas could not be carried out all at once.

Mr EICHER (Belgium) (translation)

We know from experience that, despite the Iron Curtain and walls said to be “insurmountable”, an enormous quantity of art treasures and other antiquities, originating from Poland in particular, have been bought and sold in our affluent countries at prices which I shall refrain from commenting upon.

Mr Prime Minister, is there not a danger, in view of the opening of frontiers, that all these treasures, which form a part of your country’s cultural heritage, will vanish so that their past or present owners may have foreign currency in their pockets?

I am sure, Mr Prime Minister, that you are aware of this problem, but I should like to know what you are going to do about it.

Could you also tell us how you view cultural co-operation in the years to come?

Mr Mazowiecki, Prime Minister of Poland (interpretation)

replied that Poland, in common with other countries, already had restrictions to prevent the loss of its cultural heritage. As for cultural co-operation, he hoped for increased participation in the future.

Mr BEIX (France) (translation)

Mr Prime Minister, I thank you for your much-needed clarifications on two subjects, first the Oder-Neisse line and, secondly, the maintenance of your country in the Warsaw Pact. Actually, light was already shed several months ago.

Our discussions with a number of East European countries are at present being conducted with the leading officials of those countries, who are officials if not of the Communist Party, at least of the reconverted or transformed Communist Party. How do you see your co-operation with the transformed Polish Communist Party, after five months of government?

In other words, do you think that a process of stable democratisation in your countries calls for lasting co-operation with the existing political elites?

Mr Mazowiecki, Prime Minister of Poland (interpretation)

said it was difficult to reply to that question because the Communist Party in Poland was in a state of flux, having recently split into two groups. He thought, however, that that was the start of the transformation from a Leninist to a Social Democratic Party.

Mr MARTINEZ (Spain) (interpretation)

supported the process of democratisation and Poland’s moves towards membership of the Council of Europe. He asked about the role of Solidarity in a future pluralist government.

Mr Mazowiecki, Prime Minister of Poland (interpretation)

thought he had already dealt with the question. At that stage, he did not know how the relationships between the citizens’ committees and Solidarity, on the one hand, and the closed party committees, on the other, would sort themselves out.

Mr MARTINO (Italy) (translation)

Mr Prime Minister, the greatest problem faced by your country is economic, but I would also like to underline the importance of the legal question, in the broadest sense of the term.

A European legal assembly was recently created in Venice, Italy, and has held its first meeting.

Do you not consider that this could represent a forum for discussion and consultation on the problems of reform, including its institutional aspects, as experienced by your country, on the basis of a shared comparative analysis with the other countries of Europe, and, consequently, of genuine pan-European legal co-operation?

Mr Mazowiecki, Prime Minister of Poland (interpretation)

thought Poland already co-operated in the way Mr Martino had in mind and intended to continue to do so.

Mr Joaquim MARQUES (Portugal) (interpretation)

asked about moves in Poland and in other countries of Eastern Europe to establish a market-based economy, which he considered necessary to support any pluralist democracy.

Mr Mazowiecki, Prime Minister of Poland (interpretation)

said that Poland was already transforming its economy to be market oriented.

Mr ATKINSON (United Kingdom)

Does the Prime Minister accept that for as long as Poland remains a member of the Warsaw Pact there will always be restrictions, such as the Cocom rules, on the help which Western Europe, the United States of America and Japan can provide? Does he expect that Poland will in due course seek a more independent course in its defence policies?

Mr Mazowiecki, Prime Minister of Poland (interpretation)

replied that Poland would continue to be a member of the Warsaw Pact but he hoped that the emphasis of the organisation would be changed from military to political co-operation.

Mr SAGER (Switzerland) (translation)

Thank you, Mr President. The questions I wished to ask have been anticipated by colleagues and already answered by the Prime Minister Mr Mazowiecki.

I should like to take the opportunity to thank you, Prime Minister, not only for expressing such commitment to Europe, but above all for the democratic ethos you have stood up for all your life. Thank you.


Thank you. We must now conclude the questions to Mr Mazowiecki. Once again, on behalf of the Parliamentary Assembly, I thank you very much, Mr Prime Minister, for coming here to Strasbourg to address us.

Some years ago, I saw a television play called It all started in Gdansk. It clearly illustrated that in your country, in Gdansk with Solidarity, with your friends in that movement, very important steps started in the reform process that we can now witness all over Europe. You can be very proud, Mr Prime Minister, of the role your country, your compatriots and you, yourself, have played in this historic process.

Thank you very much for coming. All the best to you and your country. (Applause)