Prime Minister of Poland

Speech made to the Assembly

Wednesday, 25 June 1997

Madam President, Mr Secretary General, ladies and gentlemen, and friends, I am glad to have an opportunity to address you as a representative of the state that, last year, celebrated the fifth anniversary of its membership of the Council of Europe and as a Polish deputy who was a member of this Assembly for a few years.

Poland’s admission in 1991 to the group of democratic states in the Council of Europe was for us a recognition of the determination with which we entered upon the road of basic political and economic transformation. In the first difficult years of transformation, models worked out by the Council of Europe provided the guidelines on how we should build a democratic state of law in Poland. The opening up of the Council of Europe to the countries of our region has offered a new quality to European co-operation, increased its scope and placed new challenges before it.

The Council will play an exceptional role in building a united Europe without borders and conflicts. We want to take an active part in that activity. We support the Council’s efforts to strengthen peace and stability in central and eastern Europe. We will continue to engage ourselves in international actions to settle conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chechnya, Georgia and other places.

Ladies and gentlemen, Poland’s activities to date in the forum of the Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly have been a sign of our will to strengthen the unity of the continent. The Council of Europe is beginning to play an important role in pan-European co-operation in legal, social and cultural areas and in such concrete spheres linked with integration as transborder co-operation, rights of national minorities and protection of the natural environment.

Poland is successfully implementing the programme of establishing Euro-regions. We have created thirteen such regions – of course, with our neighbours. Poland is also involved in international co-operation, pursued within the framework of regional organisations – such as, for example, the Central European Initiative, the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) and the Council of Baltic States. Regional organisations form the foundation of equitable co-operation between the states of central and eastern Europe, implemented in a good- neighbourly atmosphere.

In central European conditions particularly, significant activities are promoting democratic values and protecting and developing human rights and freedoms, including those of national minorities. The Council of Europe is particularly interested in those spheres. In that context, one should not forget global issues and relations between our continent and non-European areas. That is why we appreciate the activities of the European Centre for Global Interdependence and Solidarity of the Council of Europe – the so-called North-South Centre – which is based in Lisbon. I should like to announce that Poland is joining the centre.

Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the second summit of the Council of Europe, which will be held in October, will be devoted to discussing the Council’s role in our continent and to deciding the Organisation’s further development. From the very beginning, Poland has assumed a favourable attitude towards the idea of organising such meetings. We are receiving with interest a proposal to discuss social development issues. Those issues are of great importance to us – especially now, after Poland’s ratification of the European Social Charter. We know that mere ratification and implementation of the Charter will not automatically mean a better or easier life for people. Ratification will mean, however, the beginning of a new stage in Poland’s international activities, just as the discussion of social issues at the October meeting will give new impetus to putting those difficult problems on the pan-European scale. Those problems have been recognised as important by leaders of the European Union states, who recently met in Amsterdam.

Ladies and gentlemen, Poland’s political transformation has been crowned by our adoption of a new constitution, which we constructed over eight years in a fully democratic process. Our constitution was created by the people and for the people in a nationwide referendum. The constitution guarantees human and citizens’ rights; full protection of life, health, education and science; the right to work; and private ownership, in line with pan-European standards and international conventions. The achievements of the Council of Europe in the field of law were of assistance in those areas.

The constitution confirms and accepts the role of the constitutional tribunal and the ombudsperson. It guarantees the full independence of courts and the possibility of vindicating human rights before all courts. It draws on Polish experience dating back to the Constitution of 3 May 1791, to the time of political transformation. At the same time, it refers to models and the experience of European democracies. It is the constitution of the state that rejected authoritarian rule. That is why we included in the act guarantees to protect the nation against the possibility of any form of such rule. One such guarantee is the right of a citizen to lodge an individual constitutional complaint. It is the Constitution of the Polish state, with its national identity, containing clauses that makes it possible for integration with the European Union and Nato. The constitution also reflects European requirements concerning the sovereignty of a central bank and measures to counteract excessive budgetary deficits and debts.

Poland’s citizens are well-acquainted with the rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights and the activity of its controlling bodies. That may not be a comfortable situation for the government of a country that has had the most cases filed against it with the European Commission of Human Rights. This fact, however, is proof of the high state of civic awareness of the Polish people.

In view of the fast-growing number of cases, there is a need for further improvement in the activity of the European Commission and the Court of Human Rights. That is why we ratified Protocol No. 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Ladies and gentlemen, Poland took on the great challenge of returning to a democratic and economically developed Europe in 1989. Today, I can say that we succeeded in achieving that ambitious goal. The market economy has been reconstructed, with its mechanisms and institutions integrating the standards of the uniform European Union market and fulfilling our obligations stemming from membership of the World Trade Organisation and OECD. Our striving for membership of the European Union and Nato, confirmed by the consensus of the main political forces and by the support of the general public, is a strategic way for Poland to fully integrate into a united Europe.

We gladly welcome the decisions of the Amsterdam summit, opening the way to accession negotiations according to the earlier adopted timetable. We are prepared for them. This year, the Polish Parliament adopted a national integration strategy which specifies the objectives and the means for Poland to attain membership of the European Union.

The adaptation of the Polish economy to the integrational system is considerably advanced. Our economy is developing very fast and is becoming increasingly modem and effective. The four-year period of continuous high economic growth is evidence that the standards seem to be lasting. The GDP growth rate was 6% annually on average, and the same is expected in years to come. The share of the GDP budget deficit is 2.8% this year and the 48% ratio of public debt to GDP place Poland among the countries that meet the Maastricht criteria.

The fight against inflation has also been a success. This year, it will be around 12%, which is one-third of what it was four years ago. Next year, we are planning to get it down to 9%.

The economic results of recent years, together with budgetary discipline, have made Poland an attractive country for foreign investors. They have already invested more than US$ 15 thousand million, contributing to the technological and production modernisation of our economy. At the same time, they assume the obligation to invest an additional US$ 9 thousand million within the next few years. The already high degree of confidence in the Polish capital market is proved by the growing number of foreign companies present on the Warsaw stock exchange.

I should like to stress that foreign investors play an active part in the privatisation of the Polish economy. International forecast institutions emphasise that foreign investors should invest from US$ 25 thousand million to US$ 30 thousand million in Poland up to the year 2000.

Thanks to high growth dynamics, we have succeeded in cutting unemployment. From nearly three million in 1994, which amounts to 16.9% of the occupationally active population, we went down to two million this year, which is less than 12%. That is comparable with many countries of the European Union, although the situation is still far from satisfactory.

At the same time my government has started to reform social insurance. I was very glad to be informed – just fifteen minutes ago – that the Polish Parliament adopted three laws today which form the basis of a new social security system in my country. They will make it possible not only to phase out the inefficient system of old age and disability pensions being attributed to the budget, but will make a new system to accumulate savings through a capital market mechanism. That will help to maintain the high dynamics of investing.

Ladies and gentlemen, the current and future vision of Poland would not be complete if I did not stress the transformations that are under way in the ownership structure of the economy. Today, two-thirds of the national product is produced by private enterprise. Further privatisation will include copper mining and processing, telecommunications, the power industry, the insurance sector and the biggest commercial banks.

Today, Poland is a politically stable country which guarantees its citizens democratic rights and freedoms. At the same time, it is a country with dynamic economic and social processes, which gives us an optimistic vision of the future. I thank you all for your attention. I shall be very glad to answer any questions.


Thank you very much, Mr Prime Minister, for your interesting speech. Members of the Assembly have expressed a wish to put questions to you. I remind them that questions must be limited to thirty seconds, and no more. Please ask questions and refrain from making speeches. The first two questions have been tabled by Mr Muehlemann and Mr Jansson. I call Mr Muehlemann.

Mr MUEHLEMANN (Switzerland) (translation)

Mr Prime Minister, for you Belarus is a very important neighbour, because the road from Warsaw to Moscow goes through Minsk. How do you see the situation there? What can be done to give Belarus its special guest status back? What must the President of Belarus do in order for us to be able to accept him again?

Mr JANSSON (Finland)

My question is rather similar to colleague Muehlemann’s.

Relations between your country, Mr Cimoszewicz, and our Assembly are in order, as our President said, even after you left us, but what concerns us is the situation with one of your neighbours. How do you look upon the situation in Belarus?

Mr Cimoszewicz, Prime Minister of Poland

We are concerned about the situation. Let me remind all of you that Belarus is one of our neighbours and that it has a big Polish minority – 400 000 to 500 000 citizens of Polish origin. In Poland, in my constituency, which is in the north-eastern part of the country, there is a Belarusian minority of no fewer than 250 000 people. We are very interested in what is going on in Belarus and in having the best possible relations with that country. This was the case for a long time. Our economic relations were developing fast and we had frequent political contact. But after well-known events in that country that involved us, our political relations with it became low profile.

I do not want to comment too much on the internal situation in Belarus, but I shall just say this: if the Polish President decided to designate a parliament himself, no one would recognise it as such. One of the fundamentals of democracy is to have the right to elect representatives and to elect parliament – but the people, not the president, should elect them. We believe that a situation in which the president elects the parliament does not meet European democratic standards.

We believe that it is necessary to maintain some relations and a form of co-operation with Belarus, especially for humanitarian reasons. We believe that it is necessary to assist the Belarusian people. One day, Belarus, like the vast majority of European countries, will meet the political and democratic standards currently accepted in Europe.

I would advise the Council of Europe to keep close contact with Belarus, to monitor developments in that country and to use internationally accepted forms to press for the recognition of democratic standards and principles.

Mr MUEHLEMANN (translation)

Prime Minister, if I have understood you correctly, the President of Belarus ought to hold new elections in the foreseeable future and thus establish a proper parliament. Is this correct?


Mr Prime Minister, you said that we should maintain contact with Belarus. I agree, but with whom?

Mr Cimoszewicz, Prime Minister of Poland

With the people. On a Polish initiative, talks are being held between the Polish and Belarusian authorities on the idea of having round table meetings in Poland. Belarusian and Polish round table meetings should be attended by representatives of the authorities of our countries as well as by representatives of the opposition. I believe that we shall probably have those round table talks soon. That is one way in which we can at least discuss the problems and directly present our opinions and our position.

As for Mr Muehlemann’s second question, I think that without new elections – I do not know when they will be arranged – it is impossible to have a democratically elected parliament. It involves basic European standards.


The next two questions have been tabled by Mr Filimonov and Mr Sinka. We can group these questions together. I call Mr Filimonov.

Mr FILIMONOV (Russian Federation) (interpretation)

asked if Mr Cimoszewicz shared Russia’s view that the basic human rights of people in the Baltic states were respected.

Mr SINKA (Latvia)

Mr Prime Minister, how do you see the future development of Poland’s relations with the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania?

Mr Cimoszewicz, Prime Minister of Poland (translation)

I should like to reply in Russian, but, as the questions have been grouped together, I shall reply in English.

(The speaker continued in English) The questions are similar because they involve problems of the so-called Baltic republics, but they are also linked by different problems. Mr Filimonov’s question is linked to human rights protection in the Baltic republics and the other question involves Polish relations with those countries.

We are interested in protecting human rights for both general and particular reasons because people of Polish origin live in all three countries. Many of them still do not have citizenship of those countries, which is why we are in touch with the authorities, especially those of Latvia and Estonia. We believe that those people will soon be granted citizenship of the countries in which they live.

I understand some of the arguments presented by Russian politicians and leaders, but I also understand how complicated the situation is in countries such as Latvia and Estonia, where the movement of people over past years has occurred because of the politics of those countries, which, against the will of those involved, became part of the Soviet Union. The problem requires patience. Knowing many representatives of the authorities of those countries, I am convinced of their desire to solve the problem according to international standards.

I am glad to say that Polish relations with those countries are excellent. We have special economic relations based on the free trade agreement with Lithuania and Latvia and we are preparing the same sort of agreement with Estonia. We have close political co-operation with the three of them, especially Lithuania. The Polish and Lithuanian parliaments decided to create a common state committee; a special committee was created by the presidents of the states. Soon, during my meeting with the Lithuanian Prime Minister, we shall decide on the establishment of a special form of intergovernmental co-operation. Such forms of co-operation are exceptional, not only in Poland, but on an international scale.


Mr Prime Minister, should you be the first to join the European Union and Nato, will you help us to get there as well?

Mr Cimoszewicz, Prime Minister of Poland

We should very much like to. We are sure that in a short time we shall be invited to negotiate the conditions of our membership to Nato and that, after the Amsterdam summit, it will be possible – in, say, six months – to start negotiations on our accession to that structure. In two days, I shall be in Amsterdam, where Prime Minister Kok will inform associated countries of the results of the Amsterdam summit.

We believe that those structures should stay open. Such logic leads us to believe that the enlargement of Nato and the European Union is very beneficial to all of Europe – although the process is not easy and will take time. We are not treating our future membership as something that will satisfy all our wishes and requirements. We want many other countries to join those structures.

Mr GJELLEROD (Denmark)

I think we can say that the relationship between my country and Poland has developed extremely well. When we proposed the creation of a council of Baltic states our goal was to make the whole region economically strong. Poland is on its way to becoming a member of Nato and the European Union. How much will it value the task of strengthening the region around the Baltic Sea after joining those organisations?

Mr Cimoszewicz, Prime Minister of Poland

The best way of doing that will be to continue to do what we are doing now. As I have already said, we have signed free trade agreements with two of the three Baltic countries. It is a matter of time before we do so with the third country. We support the wishes of those countries to join the Central European Free Trade Agreement, which is a kind of common market in central Europe.

We closely co-operate on defence with Lithuania, which includes co-operation on army supplies, border guards, training and the creation of a common peacekeeping battalion. That is the way in which we shall continue to go and I believe that the best form of assistance for those countries is to let them enjoy close relations with a country that will some day be a member of the European Union and Nato.


Would you like to ask a supplementary question, Mr Gjellerod?


Yes. Do you think that there is a need for stronger co-operation in the Baltic Sea area?

Mr Cimoszewicz, Prime Minister of Poland

As I understand it, Mr Gjellerod was referring to the Council of Baltic States. Yes, the meeting last year in Visby in Sweden of the prime ministers who represent those countries was very good. We discussed some new ideas concerning co-operation in, for instance, culture and education. I remind the Assembly that one idea in Visby was to recognise the diplomatic and scientific titles of the region’s countries. That is a practical step in establishing close, direct relations between the people.

Since then, we have done much to promote co-operation in combating organised crime, which should continue. The region is politically and psychologically ready for much greater co-operation.

Mr DOMLJAN (Croatia)

All Europe followed with great admiration the recent political events in Poland and its brave struggle for freedom, full national sovereignty and democracy. The example set had a tremendous impact on other countries, including mine, which suffered under communist dictatorship. Once Poland becomes a member of Nato, will it continue to play a leading role in advocating and supporting the accession of other central European countries?


Thank you, Mr Domljan. Your question lasted exactly thirty seconds. I call Mr Cimoszewicz to reply.

Mr Cimoszewicz, Prime Minister of Poland

I have noticed the innovation of the electronic timer to assist speakers, which was not here before. I repeat that we believe that membership of Nato should be open to other countries. The logic behind enlargement is to enlarge the mechanism that has proved to be successful in peacekeeping in Europe. That is why we cannot agree with those who regard such enlargement as dangerous to anyone. We believe that it is a positive process of strengthening the structures and stabilising peace in Europe. Of course, we understand the argument of limited enlargement at first, but treat such enlargement as a first stage of further enlargement.


The prime minister mentioned Nato’s peacekeeping role. Does he think that Nato should stay in Bosnia after 1998?

Mr Cimoszewicz, Prime Minister of Poland

This is my personal opinion. It is not an official statement because my country has no such official position. It is not only Nato that is engaged in Bosnia and Herzegovina. What is happening there is an example of broader international co-operation – in this case between Nato and countries such as Russia and Poland which are not members of it – which seems to be more successful than previous attempts to assist and help to solve the very difficult situation.

Having done so much up to now, we should be ready to do much more. It would not be wise just to cease the process. Of course, I believe that the terms of all the international agreements, including the Dayton Agreement should be fulfilled. All parties face a problem in doing that. Sometimes, I feel that the process is going too slowly.

As the Assembly knows, Poland is engaged in the peacekeeping process there. We have military units there and we shall do what we have to as a member of the European family. The Assembly will not however be surprised to hear me say that such a long-term operation is a very heavy burden on us and not easy to finance.

Mr KUZMICKAS (Lithuania)

What is your opinion, Mr Prime Minister, of the expansion of the Central European Free Trade Agreement to the north? What role do you attribute to the recently established assembly of the Polish and Lithuanian parliaments in regional co-operation in central Europe?

Mr Cimoszewicz, Prime Minister of Poland

As I have already mentioned, relations between Poland and Lithuania are very positive. They involve not only the establishment of interparliamentary organs, but other developments. After the elections in Lithuania, the new authorities immediately made positive proposals on Polish-Lithuanian co-operation. We appreciate that very much, we are responding positively and we shall continue to do so.

We support the Lithuanian application for membership of CEFTA. The experience of the countries in CEFTA is very positive. I wonder whether people in Europe know that in the short period of CEFTA’s existence, the value of trade between member states has risen to three times the previous level. That proves that the establishment of CEFTA was a wise decision and that it is an efficient mechanism.

The newest member of CEFTA is Romania. Member states said some time ago that they would accept Romania. Now they are considering Lithuania’s application and one day, Bulgaria and other countries will fulfil the established criteria for membership.

Mr HUGHES (United Kingdom)

What steps are you taking, Mr Prime Minister, to develop trade between Poland and Russia?

Mr Cimoszewicz, Prime Minister of Poland

I thank you particularly for that question. Some years ago, with the changes in Poland and Russia, and with the economic crises in both countries, our common trade went down substantially. It was a difficult time for both countries and especially for Polish enterprises that used to produce goods for the Soviet market. Fortunately, in the past four years, our trade with Russia has grown very quickly, with a growth rate of 35% to 50% annually. Today, Russia is our second economic partner. We estimate that the value of our common trade is about US$ 6 thousand million and it is still growing fast.

Our business representatives have been very active in the Russian market. We have discussed means of liberalising our trade with the Russian Government. When I visited Moscow some months ago, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin and I decided to set up a group of experts to analyse all the possibilities arising from the liberalisation of our trade and economic co-operation. Some of their proposals have already been presented. Furthermore, our regional and local authorities are very active. They arrange direct co-operation with the Russian provinces, at governor level, which produces positive results.


I am glad of your assurance, Mr Prime Minister. I am sure that you appreciate, as I do, the desire of your country to foster its relationship with the west. However, we have a saying in Britain that charity begins at home. I am sure that you recognise that increasing trade with Russia could lead to increased prosperity and greater political stability in eastern Europe.


That was a comment.

Mr Cimoszewicz, Prime Minister of Poland

I fully agree with Mr Hughes.

Mr VISHNYAKOV (Russian Federation) (interpretation)

stated that the Russian Federation had diversified its infrastructure which linked it with Kaliningrad. He regretted that Poland was not making experts available to discuss the matter.

Mr Cimoszewicz, Prime Minister of Poland (interpretation)

said that he could not agree with Mr Vishnyakov’s assessment of the situation. Nor could he agree that any action on the part of Poland might affect people in that region. Poland was against any extra-territorial corridor. There must be transit through Poland and that existed. Many lorries crossed Poland daily and his government was prepared to discuss regulating that traffic.

Mr VISHNYAKOV (interpretation)

said that, as a legal expert, that was the first time he had heard that such a corridor had to be extra-territorial. What he wanted was a proper road across Poland.

Mr Cimoszewicz, Prime Minister of Poland (interpretation)

asked Mr Vishnyakov not to talk in those terms to the representative of a government which, sixty years previously, had heard another country speaking of the necessity of building a road through Poland. The Polish people remembered that.

Mrs POPTODOROVA (Bulgaria)

I represent the youngest political party in my country – it was formed only last February – the European left of Bulgaria, the Social Democratic Party.

I begin by heartily congratulating you, Mr Prime Minister, and your party for having brilliantly shown that democratic reform can be successfully conducted by a left of centre party.

I realise that I am about to ask a question that has been asked many times today, but as Poland’s good performance has qualified it for the first wave of membership of Nato and the European Union, will you offer your support to other countries such as mine that hope to qualify for the second wave of Nato membership?

Mr Cimoszewicz, Prime Minister of Poland

For the third time today, my answer is yes. Poland is very interested in what is happening in Bulgaria. We were very sad when Bulgaria found itself facing major economic problems. As you know, Poland was probably the first country to react some months ago by deciding to offer food assistance to your country. I met your deputy president yesterday and we discussed the problems. I am happy to offer my full support for Bulgaria’s aspirations to join the European institutions.


It is difficult to cover everything in thirty seconds. Would you, Mr Prime Minister, be able to outline any bilateral steps that we could take to support the help that you so graciously offered to Bulgaria in the area of security?

Mr Cimoszewicz, Prime Minister of Poland

At the beginning of July there will be a meeting of foreign affairs representatives to discuss the problems.

Mr ARNAU (Spain) (interpretation)

said that Poland had demonstrated to Europe that the strongest facet of any nation was its human resources. How- I ever, he wished to know what provisions the Polish Government had made to ensure that pensions remained at acceptable levels.

Mr Cimoszewicz, Prime Minister of Poland

As I have already said, today the Polish Parliament introduced three new laws that have fundamental significance in the reforming of our social security system. I am very satisfied with that because despite the fact that in three months there will be new elections in Poland, it has still been possible to arrange one of the most important social reforms. In order to achieve that, we had to have a far-reaching agreement with the opposition.

My government presented the draft of the reform about two months ago, but we had worked hard on it for a long time. Unfortunately, due to personal reasons, we were not able to present it six months earlier, as we would have liked. However, we decided to continue with it despite the political timing and we have achieved a very positive result.

The current social security system is not efficient. It is expensive and a very heavy burden on employers, who have to pay high social security contributions. It is also a burden on the state budget because every year we have to allocate additional funding to the system.

The new system, which will develop over several years, will be based on three pillars. The first is similar to the existing system. The second is an obligatory social security capital fund, which will be created by using resources from our privatisation programme. Indeed, just this year we began the biggest privatisation projects in the history of Poland. We have privatised the big banks and we are about to privatise telecommunications and so on. We will use some of the income from privatisation to finance the new social security system. The third pillar will be an optional system within the overall system.

I cannot go into details now, but I believe that the new system will be less of a burden and will provide an answer to the wishes of both employees and employers. Of course, it is a compromise – people would like to have more. It is not the answer for everybody because it will really only work for those who are not older than fifty. For those over that age, we will continue with the current system. It will be fifteen years before everybody will be part of the new social security system.


That was a very detailed answer, so I do not think that I will call Mr Arnau to ask a supplementary.

We have now come to the end of the questions. I thank you, Mr Prime Minister warmly and wholeheartedly, on behalf of the Assembly, for the way in which you answered our questions. Thank you very much.