Prime Minister of Poland

Speech made to the Assembly

Thursday, 6 October 1994

Mr President, Mr Secretary General, ladies and gentlemen, may I first cordially thank you for your welcome and for offering me the opportunity to place before you some of the issues of concern to us, both as Poles and as members of the European family.

The Council of Europe was the first western European organisation to welcome into its ranks the new democracies of central and eastern Europe. This was a courageous decision, and its effects have been considerable. Poland greatly appreciates the support and assistance provided by the Council of Europe in the construction of a modem democratic state, the creation of democratic institutions and the consolidation of the rule of law. We are satisfied with the development of contacts between Poland and the Council of Europe both at governmental and parliamentary levels. The two visits to Warsaw this year by Mr Miguel-Angel Martinez, President of the Parliamentary Assembly, and the official visit by the Secretary General are just a few examples of these contacts which we hold in high esteem.

The equal-footing co-operation which typifies inter-state relations at the Council of Europe allows for greater understanding of each state’s problems and needs, especially in the case of states which have embarked upon the tough road of political and economic transformation. Europe will need this understanding and effective co-operation, which is based on that understanding if it is to become a stable area of democracy and free market economics, and if we are to plan the new system of relations with all the consequences that history has taught us.

For five years, Poland has successfully, albeit not without problems, carried out a programme of far-reaching changes and created a system based on democracy, human rights, the rule of law and market economics. The reforms are still on a steady course despite changes of parliaments and governments as a result of democratic elections. We can be satisfied with the results of the reform process; they are outstanding. Democratic processes have stabilised and the market imposes its rules on the country’s economy. Basic institutions that allow the market’s machinery to operate effectively have been set up. Inflation is under control and is visibly reducing. The private sector is dominant and accounts for much of the gross national product and most new jobs. We want Poland to become increasingly attractive to foreign capital.

We have seen sharp economic growth. In 1993, the gross national product rose by 4 % and industrial production rose by over 8% at a time when the growth rate in Europe as a whole was much lower. That means that Poland has become one of the European states with the fastest rates of economic development. The same trends are being maintained in the economy this year and in some areas such as industry, investment and exports the growth rate is significantly higher even than last year’s figure. In the last seven months, industrial production has risen by 11,2%. These results have been made possible by Polish society’s firm resolve despite the hardship due to the reforms. High unemployment and lower real incomes are only two of the negative phenomena to be tackled. It is much harder to change people’s habits than economic principles. We should therefore attach particular importance to changes of mentality, now that more and more Poles are already reaping the benefits of the positive effects of the reforms. These reforms can be effective only if society accepts them.

I must say it again: the course of reforms in Poland is irreversible, although at times their speed may depend on society’s willingness to accept the occasional hardship which they may bring about.

We often say – and quite rightly – that peace in Europe is indivisible. But we should place equal stress on the notion that peace and development in Europe are interdependent.

The construction of democratic institutions is not only a matter of producing a new political picture of Europe or creating the right conditions for harmonious Europe-wide co-operation but of building stability throughout our continent.

By supporting change, we are helping the continent’s security. We all share the risks of a collapse of the process of change. It is no longer possible to fence off areas of instability or conflict with new impervious frontiers.

Development in our region is the key to Europe’s future. We are paying particular attention to the progress of reforms in our eastern neighbours. We ought to be co-operating closely with them and, as far as possible, lending them considerable support and assistance. We feel that this can be underpinned by holding out definite prospects of accession to the Council of Europe in the near future. We are pleased that the Council of Europe is still demonstrating courage and not being deflected from its objective of allowing the larger states of eastern Europe to join the Organisation. This is an important and historic task; it will restore Europe’s true frontiers. But the Organisation will have to adapt to its new tasks and find new methods of conducting its activity, taking into consideration the scale and size of its future members’ needs. The Council of Europe will have to fight any erosion of its existing standards.

We are working together to create a new European reality founded on a lost notion refound, a community of ideals and values. Instead of artificial divides, we are forging political, economic and human links, in an awareness of a common future.

Poland is not only banking on future co-operation; my country is also doing its part to help build this new Europe.

We are especially concerned with our near neighbours, and have signed bilateral treaties with them all to establish, among other things, the inviolability of our frontiers and systems to protect minority groups. We see these treaties as a giant step forward for all Poles, Germans, Belorussians, Lithuanians, Russians, Slovaks, Czechs and Ukrainians. We are aware of the importance of these treaties for the stability of the whole region, a part of Europe to which history has been so cruel.

We are developing transfrontalier co-operation, including Euro-regional co-operation, on an unprecedented scale. We are making our contribution to regional co-operation in central Europe, as well as co-operation within the Council of Baltic States. We are also active participants in the Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

At the same time, the idea of a united Europe which inspired the founding fathers of the Council of Europe is, for us, more relevant than ever. We Poles have a tradition of openness towards other cultures and have always been an element of European civilisation. For reasons beyond our control, we were cut off from our historical roots. That is why the ideal of reintegration with the west is so important for us, politically and economically speaking, and in terms of civilisation; it is a top priority for us. Given the eagerness displayed by the Polish people, Poland has no choice but to join all western organisations and find a lasting place in the system of relations set up by western European countries. We are against any new divisions in Europe. We reject Poland’s role as “the east of the west” as well as that of “the west of the east”. We are unswervingly set on the process which will combine eastern and western Europe into a single entity.

We would like to see the implementation of the principles of the indivisibility of security in the whole of Europe and even beyond – the whole Euro-Atlantic area.

We consider that the simplest way to achieve an undivided Europe is to enlarge the tried and tested structures – the North Atlantic Alliance and the European Union. Such an enlargement does not create new divisions but eliminates old ones. To Poland, accession to the European Union means not only strengthening the democratic changes, consolidating the transformation of the system and speeding up economic development, but above all expressing self-determination. We consider the enlargement of Nato as one factor in adapting this organisation to the new situations and relations in Europe.

I would again stress that the aspiration to accede to that organisation does not stem from a feeling of danger. It is not directed against any particular state.

Strengthening Poland’s links with west European and transatlantic institutions will provide measurable benefits not only for Poland but also for Europe: it will reinforce security and extend the area of stability. At the same time we are aware that accession to the European Union and Nato do not exclusively involve advantages. Accession to these organisations will force us actively to participate in their joint activities and efforts. We are ready to make these undertakings.

We can understand the difficulty of adapting to change in the very short term, especially if the change is as fundamental as the defeat of communism and the end of the cold war. These changes have come about spontaneously, independently of existing structures. This partly explains the difficulties in adapting the European institutions. Nevertheless, we would like these institutions, which have played a key role in developing the western half of the continent, to become instruments gradually taking in the whole of Europe. In fact, this is the only alternative.

The Polish economy is already, largely spontaneously, integrating into the economy of the European Union as a result of the natural economic tendencies of both areas. This is further proof of the theory that nature abhors economic or political vacuums. Another natural tendency is towards co-operation with Nato in security. We are glad that such cooperation is coming increasingly to the forefront. The Nato programme “Partnership for Peace” not only creates a new reality but also reflects existing needs. We are hoping to benefit actively from the prospects which it creates and to initiate practical military cooperation with Nato states. The first joint military exercises recently conducted in my country with the participation of thirteen states from Nato and eastern Europe, including armed forces which until recently confronted each other in a divided Europe, are a symbol of the birth of a new Europe and bear witness to the depth and, we believe, the irreversibility of the changes in our region.

In the course of these changes, at the level not only of separate nations but of the whole continent, the Council of Europe has a special role to play. It can restore the real meaning of “Europe”. Now that the standards have been established, it should allow all the peoples of Europe to become actively involved in effective co-operation.

Poland welcomes and supports the action taken by this Organisation to adapt to a changing international environment. The protection of human rights and minorities, the construction of demographic systems, and cultural and educational matters are basic factors in a stable national and world order. I hope that the Council’s spring encounters held last May in Warsaw were also a step in this direction.

We are in favour of developing programmes embracing various countries and their societies, and eliminating obstacles to integration. One of the most urgent tasks facing Europe is to solve the economic problems in central and eastern Europe. It is vital that western states show imagination when contributing to the transformation process. We shall be unable to overcome our difficulties without the influx of more foreign capital and investment. We would urge you to act together for the benefit of us all. Progress in the change process and the consolidation of democracy and the market economy in central and eastern Europe are historic challenges for all Europeans. Their success or failure will determine our continents’ future for decades to come. We need a plan, a strategy for joint action. This strategy should help promote economic growth and reduce the social cost of transforming the system, and ensure internal stability and external security for the states undergoing transformation. If Europe is to take up these new challenges it needs such a strategy.

At the Vienna Summit the Council of Europe adopted the Declaration and Action Plan on the Combating of Racism, Xenophobia, Anti-Semitism and Intolerance and pinpointed as key challenges the resurgence of aggressive nationalism and inadequate protection of the rights of minorities, challenges which contemporary Europe must take up. We must continue to be equally courageous in our approach, as courage is what is still needed. With your joint efforts, parliamentarians from East and West, you can and must create a new form for the old continent.

In the knowledge that all states are interdependent and equal in rights, let us work to create the conditions for sustainable growth throughout Europe. New forms of co-operation are needed. International relations must be rid of the “givers and takers” philosophy. The weakness of current programmes derives from the dissipation of resources, the inadequacy of co-ordination in their use and the lack of a joint strategy. Further subsisting concerns are the growth of protectionism and the erection of new barriers, which to us mean further deterioration in our unfavourable economic situation. Let us move on from mere words about European co-operation to a Europe which is aware of its true common identity, a Europe marked by mutual understanding and broad co-operation.

Thank you for your attention.


Thank you, Mr Pawlak. We well understand that, geographically speaking, you do not want your country to be east of the west or west of the east. We must admit that with the current movements on the map, Warsaw is becoming quite central. In the new dimension that Europe is encompassing, that is very much projected within our Assembly.

Members of our Parliamentary Assembly have expressed the wish to put a number of questions to you, Mr Pawlak. I remind them that questions must be limited to thirty seconds each. However, within the timescale available, it may be possible for members to ask supplementary questions if they so wish. I call on Mr Franck to put the first question.

Mr FRANCK (Sweden)

How are Poland’s efforts to abolish capital punishment progressing? How do you, Mr Pawlak, think you can fulfil that aim?

Mr Pawlak, Prime Minister of Poland (interpretation)

said that this depended upon the Polish Parliament and he could not speak for the government in any definitive way. He said that recently no death sentences had actually been carried out.


Thank you for your answer, Mr Pawlak. I understand that you are a little restricted in what you can say. However, I hope that you have noted the decision taken in the Council of Europe a few days ago. Is it your personal opinion that it is time to go further down that road? Other countries in central Europe have done so. Although I understand that you cannot speak on behalf of the Polish Parliament, perhaps you would say a little more.

Mr Pawlak, Prime Minister of Poland (interpretation)

said that he would be freer to answer that question once he was an ordinary member of parliament again.

Mr KELAM (Estonia)

I am delighted to welcome your readiness to participate in the development of co-operation in Europe, Mr Pawlak. Will you elaborate further on the opportunity for greater political co-operation between Visegrad states, especially Poland and the Baltic states – bearing in mind their declared aspiration to be integrated into the European Union?

Mr Pawlak, Prime Minister of Poland (interpretation)

said that Poland was active in co-operation on a regional basis having the Chair of the Council of Baltic States this year. He emphasised the importance of co-operation at all levels and in all directions but that such activity must be practical and it should be dynamic. The Visegrad Summit later this year would be useful in developing further measures for such co-operation.


Currently, there are some traffic problems with crossing the Polish-Lithuanian border. In view of the plans for such schemes as Via Hanseatica and Via Baltica, what is the Polish Government prepared to do to ease the problems in crossing the Polish-Lithuanian border?

Mr Pawlak, Prime Minister of Poland (interpretation)

said that these problems were the result of the very quick opening up of states that had been insular for a long time and the development of a suitable infrastructure had lagged behind. The matter would be helped by the Polish-Lithuanian Treaty which would be ratified soon.

Mr GRICIUS (Lithuania)

This year, for the first time this century, Poland and Lithuania will sign a treaty of friendship and co-operation and I believe that that treaty will be ratified next week by our parliaments in Warsaw and Vilnius. There is no separate article in the treaty dealing with security issues and bilateral or multilateral co-operation. How do you see the future stability and security of central Europe? Do you agree that the Baltic states should be left outside Nato in case the Visegrad countries are accepted as full members of this organisation?

Mr Pawlak, Prime Minister of Poland (interpretation)

said that the challenge of European security could not be met by creating more divisions and different zones on the continent but rather by widening co-operation in as many directions as possible. The different structures of Nato – Partnership for Peace – and the CSCE, to name but two, were very important, but the nations of Europe must be obstinate in forging a new comprehensive security structure which would include security guarantees extending east of Poland.

Mr ZINGERIS (Lithuania)

For the past four years, relations between our countries have been really good. However, I would like you to give a more detailed answer to Mr Gricius’s question. Both Poland and Lithuania are looking for security guarantees by joining Nato. Will Poland support the idea of synchronised joining, with Poland and Lithuania joining Nato at the same time?

Mr Pawlak, Prime Minister of Poland (interpretation)

said that both countries had recently taken part in military manœuvres. This co-operation could take place again. With regard to joining Nato, the view of Nato itself had to be taken into account and that depended not only on the European context but on questions of international stability. Central and eastern Europe had to be part of a joint security system. Unilateral guarantees of security, based on conditions applying in only one region of Europe, could not be established.

Mr ROMAN (Spain) (interpretation)

asked whether various press sources were accurate in claiming that the current Polish Government was putting a brake on the privatisation process.

Mr Pawlak, Prime Minister of Poland (interpretation)

said that the privatisation process would at the end of this year be far more advanced than was the case last year. The benefits of privatisation were also greater. Privatisation was an emotive subject and there were problems in Poland. Privatisation was a normal process to be carried out sensibly and effectively. If the government was on occasion cautious, it was simply to ensure that privatisation was undertaken properly without jeopardising the Polish economy. Some privatisation had involved the introduction of foreign ownership but others were public flotations in which all could become shareholders. These latter privatisations had succeeded in defusing some of the negative reactions and tensions surrounding privatisation. Already over 60% of the economy was in private hands, 90% of trade and 90% of agriculture. The problem was in heavy industry which was difficult to manage even within a market economy. Privatisation should not take place hastily. The government was, however, determined that next year all Polish companies should comply with the commercial code and provide the same guarantees as companies in the European Union.

Mr GÜNER (Turkey)

We all much appreciated your country’s contribution to the democratisation process in central and eastern Europe, following the collapse of the communist regime. Europe is changing rapidly and the membership of the Council of Europe is growing. There is a special candidate for membership in terms of size and importance, which is the Russian Federation. We would like to see that federation become a member of this Organisation one day. Has the Council of Europe sought your opinion, Mr President, about the accession of the Russian Federation?

Mr Pawlak, Prime Minister of Poland (interpretation)

said that values held by Poland were common European values which should be promoted wherever possible. He thought that the Council of Europe could be a pioneer in establishing new contacts with the Russian Federation. There were now political links in central and eastern Europe that had been absent for decades. He felt that the Russian Federation could benefit from full co-operation with Council of Europe states.

Mr LANDSBERGIS (Lithuania)

I wish to add my congratulations to you, President Pawlak. I would like to know more about Poland’s legislation on national minorities, and about the procedures of the Polish Parliament to improve the situation of minorities in Poland.

Mr Pawlak, Prime Minister of Poland (interpretation)

replied that Poland respected the rights of national minorities and applied international standards in this area. Indeed, it had ratified the Convention on the Rights of National Minorities.

He said that there were no apparent internal tensions in Poland. With respect to Lithuania, Poland had signed a treaty in April which granted guarantees to Lithuanians in Poland which would maintain their religious and cultural identity. There were now eleven Lithuanian primary schools in Poland, a secondary school and a radio station. The Polish Government was granting funds to help establish a Lithuanian cultural centre.

Mr Pawlak felt that there was a sincere commitment from both sides to work together on this issue. Poland was open to all forms of co-operation including the signing of international conventions and intergovernmental agreements.

Mr LANDSBERGIS (interpretation)

reminded Mr Pawlak that he had asked specifically about national legislation.

Mr Pawlak, Prime Minister of Poland (interpretation)

said that the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of National Minorities and its incorporation into law was evidence that Poland had legislated for minorities.

Mr INÖNÜ (Turkey)

I listened carefully to the Prime Minister’s explanation. I noticed that at one point he said that enlargement of regional organisations brings more stability. One organisation is as large as possible – the United Nations. In recent events in Bosnia, it was rather inefficient, which showed that there are some deficiencies in its structures. Does Poland have any proposals to reform the operational structure of the United Nations?

Mr Pawlak, Prime Minister of Poland (interpretation)

replied that the United Nations covered many different states and he was pleased that the UN was trying to adapt to the new realities and facing the new challenges.

The Security Council had been reformed and practical measures had been taken to guarantee peace and stability in various parts of the world. Poland was aware of the contributions that international organisations could make but this would never replace the responsibilities of individual nations.

International organisations must create basic conditions enabling countries to uphold the fundamental values of mankind and to define the values of a true democracy. He favoured strengthening the UN so that it could face challenges.

Mr INÖNÜ (Turkey)

I thank the Prime Minister for his reply. I have one simple question: did he have a chance to see the Polish village in Turkey?

Mr Pawlak, Prime Minister of Poland (interpretation)

replied no. He had not really had much opportunity to travel abroad.


That concludes the questions. This has been an excellent exercise. I warmly thank you, Mr Prime Minister, on behalf of the Assembly for your statement and for the remarks that you have made during this question time. We shall remember your performance. Please convey to your colleagues in government – certainly to President Walesa – and to the Polish people our solidarity and friendship.

Mr Pawlak, Prime Minister of Poland (interpretation)

thanked the President for his invitation to speak to the Assembly. It had been useful.