Making up for lost time
Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek addresses lower house of the Polish parliament
November 10, 1997
The ambitious prime minister’s program of four great reforms is refreshing after a term of conservative rule by the post-communists. A little-known politician leads a coalition of all the significant right-wing forces. Whatever the assessments of the government’s accomplishments, Jerzy Buzek’s vision still resonates in Polish politics.
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the House,
It is my great honor to present the program to repair the state, the program of the new government which has been formed jointly by Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) and by the Freedom Union (UW) – the groupings originating from the democratic and anti-communist opposition. After 1989, we became divided by serious disagreements over policy and by different political choices. Today, we have decided to unite our forces in one coalition. We were reunited by our common belief that Poland should and can be changed – we need to repair all that is wrong with it. We must not waste this opportunity. It is more important than the differences that existed in the past or that may indeed still exist among us today.
The Solidarity movement has a long history. It was the people of Solidarity who began to build a free and sovereign Poland.
August 1980 – that great and moving event on Poland’s road to democracy – initiated major changes in the communist states. That was the beginning of the end of the Evil Empire.
In 1989, Solidarity won through in the elections. Then, we were not prepared for such a victory. The situation was complicated by the fact that we had to confront some of the biggest problems that any democratically-elected government could ever expect to face.
The task of dismantling the structures of the totalitarian state proved to be more difficult than we had previously thought. The early leaders of our camp also made the error of failing to engage in dialogue within the Solidarity community of political parties and groupings. As a result, our political opponents came to power in 1993.
We have learned the lesson. We have overcome conflicts and emotions. Despite previous divisions, we have managed to build a new common political camp – Solidarity Electoral Action. Today, having learned from painful experience, we want to make up for lost time, and do what was not done right away after 1989.
That year marked the beginning of the end of communism in our country. That communism which, despite attempts at its reform, remained invariably a criminal and totalitarian system, where basic civil rights and liberties were not respected. That communism which led to the economic and societal collapse of our country. The year 1989, as I said, marked the beginning of the end of that communism in Poland. I will do everything to ensure that the 1997 will be remembered as the year of the beginning of state reform; of the final break with an ignominious past.
In May, Solidarity Electoral Action announced its program. Allow me to quote for you some of its most important words:
“We are facing a great opportunity. We can create a modern and equitable state. Poland that is based on strong families and solidarity between the generations; the country of equal opportunities for all families. Poland with an advanced, modern economy. A state formed on patriotic and Christian values, on love of freedom. We can build the Republic of Poland which will be secure thanks to its membership in the North Atlantic Treaty”.
Solidarity Electoral Action went to the polls with this vision of Poland. Millions of people supported this vision of the future, and handed victory to the Solidarity Electoral Action’s program.
Now, allow me to go on by quoting some more significant words:
“Freedom and independence of the state, regained after 1989, gave us the opportunity to freely shape the future of our country. We need to protect national identity, while being open to the world. We need to complete the construction of a benevolent state. This will be possible through the involvement of each of us, citizens of the Republic of Poland.”
This is a fragment of the Freedom Union’s program – the second grouping in my government.
The vision of Poland presented in our program and expressed by our slogan “Always Poland, always freedom, always family” allowed my grouping – Solidarity Electoral Action – to win the election. Freedom Union’s plan, similar in many respects to the program of Solidarity Electoral Action, also gained the support of many Poles.
This success, the success of all the people of Solidarity – the people who identify themselves with the message of August 1980.1– imposed on us politicians a great responsibility for the fate of millions of our compatriots, for the state, for the future of the nation.
I am sure that today this great sense of responsibility is shared by millions of Poles who remember that – as the Holy Father said – “the order of freedom is built on pain”; and that “true freedom is measured by the degree of readiness to serve, to sacrifice oneself”.
Let us all give ourselves to our Homeland. Let us overcome our weaknesses. Let us give to this country our best to make our dreams come true at last. So that Poland and all the Polish people can proudly enter the new millennium.
Members of the House, we, the government, the Parliament and all people of good will, are facing four great tasks.
Our first and primary task is to provide the people, Polish families, with adequate living conditions, to enable them to shape their own destiny.
For this to happen, the state must transfer a part of its power and property to the people. Only then, will Polish families be really free.
Only after the decentralization of the state and the distribution of property, will it be possible to create a sustainable basis for the Poland of the future, for the Poland of the 21st century. Only then will the true solidarity of free people be possible.
Thus, first – provide for the human being, a human being in a strong, healthy family.
It will be impossible to achieve this goal without major reform of the state, without repairing its structures. We need to make Poland a fair and efficient state. That is our job.
The state must serve the public, this great family of families. Numerous areas of public life must be separated from the influence of political parties. That great goal of Solidarity of 1980 and 1989 must be finally achieved.
We went for power to the people in order to give it back to the people, so that citizens and local communities can share some of this power, which they can utilize better than the state. In this way,the state – limited in its influence – becomes stronger than it is today in areas where it cannot be replaced by anybody; for instance, in guaranteeing the nation’s security and dealing with natural disasters.
The right to private property must be shared out among the people. The Polish middle class need to strengthen themselves. We will not allow a narrow economic oligarchy to rule the Republic of Poland. We want a free economy with opportunities for all; we want a state based on social dialogue between labor and capital.
In this matter, my government will not lack determination. We will fight against all negative tendencies in our economic life.
Already at the first meeting of the Council of Ministers, I ordered an audit of a number of controversial decisions made in the past four years.
We do not want to replace one set of “our people” with another. To manage the economy and civil service, we will appoint well-educated professionals, including young people. We have already stopped recruitment to the civil service, which was widely criticized by the public because itwas carried out according to the wrong principles, distorted by political interests.
The local government reform and its accompanying reform of public finances, privatization, re-privatization and the distribution of property, will form the basis for the successful implementation of the reform of education, health care, welfare, and pension systems. The changes in state structures and institutions in the social sphere will make it possible to build an efficient economy, based on private property, an economy without monopolies, with modern structures, promoting citizen endeavor, but also supporting the weakest who are unable to cope single-handedly.
Only implementation of all these reforms will ensure long-term economic growth, built by the everyday, well-organized effort of millions of people. It will allow the standard of living to be improved and the economic autonomy of families to be extended.
First – free people in strong families. Second – repairing the state.
Both these tasks require that the internal and external security of the Republic of Poland is ensured.
Our citizens need to feel safer than they do today. This requires improvement in the work of the police and other services safeguarding public order and the security of citizens, improvement in law enforcement agencies and the courts.
We want to become a full member of the Euro-Atlantic community as soon as possible. In today’s world, this community is the most important guarantee of societal development based on a free market and democracy, on freedom of individuals and nations. There is no better guarantee of Poland’s sovereignty than NATO.
Today, on the eve of the anniversary of renewed independence of the Republic of Poland, I want to say this clearly: a Poland in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization means a Poland which is permanently safe and independent.
Free citizens, repairing the state, security. All of this will not be possible without strengthening moral values, which are the foundation of our Christian civilization: truth, good, and love. Respect for moral values will be our contribution to a Europe which is being united.
Without the foundation of values, without proper respect for the right to life and dignity of every human being, strong families are not possible, generational solidarity is not possible, and the nation is not able to live in dignity. Without moral values, freedom is not possible either. This is a large area of common concern of the state and the churches, especially the Catholic Church. We need their cooperation with keeping the autonomy of both parties.
We should also remember that an efficient economy is not possible without commonly accepted moral values. After all, working together requires at least the minimum trust in partners and recognition of the value of human labor. Mass violations of social norms increase – as economists say – management costs.
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the House, the four great tasks for Poland and for the Polish people, the four tasks of my government are closely related to one another. We are fully aware that either we implement all of them, or we risk failing to accomplish any of them to a satisfactory degree. Therefore, this government – and I, personally – will be very determined. We will be tough. This program must be a success. Poland is waiting for it! All Poles are waiting for it!
Members of the House, the family is the foundation of society; this is the place where people are brought up and develop.
One of the most important tasks that I put before myself and our government is the introduction of a pro-family policy. By this I do not mean only temporary measures, such as increasing social benefits.
System changes are necessary. These will support families in all the areas that influence their stability and development, that respect their dignity. We need to rebuild the economic independence of families, especially those with many children and single mothers with children. Tax law is an important factor here. We want to ensure independence of families, and give parents guarantees of their control of their children’s education and upbringing.
Parents will be able to choose freely the schools their children attend, to decide on the teaching of legally recognized religions in public schools, and they will gain a real ability to counter the negative effects of criminal environments and sects on their children.
Education is the nation state’s and free people’s investment in their own future. Education, including higher education, will determine Poland’s place among the nations. Today, when the world is wide open, education determines a nation’s identity and development of its culture. Education is the best way to even out the opportunities of life. Therefore, we believe it is necessary to implement a radical reform of the education system, adapting it to the requirements of the 21st century.
Schools should assist parents in bringing up their children and schools managed by local governments can contribute to the development of the local environment –we want to look at the future of Polish education from these two perspectives.
We will quickly decentralize the education system and introduce a full reform of the curriculum. We will replace entry exams to secondary schools with exams at the end of education in primary schools. We will make secondary education universal. We will introduce new final exams at secondary schools. We will radically reform vocational education. We also plan for every third graduate of secondary schools to continue their education at university level.
It is necessary to create a scholarship system that will efficiently – much more efficiently than today – even out the opportunities offered to rural youth so that they get a solid education at secondary and university level. Regardless of the system, it is my plan – together with the ministries of education and of agriculture – to create special scholarships for the most talented pupils and students from families with many children from rural areas and small towns.
We will modernize the system of educating teachers. We will unblock the paths of promotion for good teachers who improve their qualifications. We will raise teachers’ salaries. My government will bring real equality to state and private education.
We will increase spending on higher education. We will also support science development. Science – along with education – is the most important area for investment in the future of the nation. At the same time, we will create the conditions for improving the system of allocating funds for science, as well as for the necessary redevelopment of existing scientific institutions. The implementation of the objectives listed above will be supported by a new law on national education and an amendment to the law on higher education, including the law on higher vocational education.
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the House, we know very well that the housing conditions of millions of Poles are bad. It is impossible to make up in a short time for many years of neglect in the house-building sector. The fundamental preconditions for efficient restoration measures in this area are lowering the rate of inflation and steady economic growth.
We will begin the implementation of the National Home Building Program. This means launching home building funds, increasing investment in the development of construction sites, simplifying construction law and the law on spatial planning, supporting modernization of technology, and better spending of budget funds. We will raise extra-budgetary funds for the construction sector.
We will encourage local governments to invest in the house-building sector. We will restore the systems of large tax breaks.
My government is determined to extend the powers of local governments, while maintaining a uniform structure of the state. The communes are the obvious foundation of self-government. That is why we will strengthen their position first. We will provide communes with financial autonomy, and we will extend their powers. We will develop the system of local government, creating local counties and provinces with central and local government authorities. We will adjust the state administration to the new situation, to co-governance with local governments at various levels.
Private property is the basis of modern and strong states. Therefore, we will accelerate privatization and carry out re-privatization. We will implement a program for the universal granting of property rights.
We are aware that the privatization process should be completed by 2001, that is, by the end of the Sejm’s term of office. We need to promptly determine the claims in respect of re-privatization and we must adopt a law on re-privatization which will guarantee restitution in kind or compensation.
We intend to change the law on national industrial funds that was recently passed by Parliament. Ownership transformations regarding the majority of State Treasury property will include granting property rights, understood as the transfer of property rights coupons to those social groups that have not yet participated in the benefits of privatization (this especially applies to employees of the public sector, local governments, and people over 50 years of age). These changes will also serve to support the reform of the pension system.
We will immediately undertake an inventory and valuation of the assets of the State Treasury through specially appointed services. We will also formulate proposals for the further transfer of property rights in relation to the remaining property of the State Treasury.
We will counteract unemployment and its negative effects. The best way to combat this social scourge of modern Poland is to create new jobs and to improve the qualifications of people out of work.
As particularly important, we will consider such policies towards young people that will allow them to avoid starting their adult lives in unemployment benefit queues.
Among the great reforms of the social sphere which I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, the reform of the pension system is, in my view, the most important. We are aiming at a pension system that will give pensioners a guarantee of a secure old age, a system that is clear and understandable to all, a system that makes pensions dependent on the contributions paid, and does not favor any social group at the expense of others.
To achieve this task, the coalition will quickly pass a package of laws rationalizing the current system.
The social insurance reform will begin in 1999 on the basis of the Pension Fund Act and the Employees’ Pension Schemes Act.
I want to add that the reform will be implemented with a full guarantee the level of existing benefits will not be lowered, in order to ensure a decent standard of living for pensioners. The future pension system through the capitalization of contribution premiums will work for economic development, resulting in a real increase in benefits.
The reform will result in an increase in the real wages of health care professionals and in a reduction of operating costs of the whole structure.
The health care system should serve patients. That is the purpose of the changes we want to introduce.
Along with the deep reforms, we will undertake urgent repair measures. We will again conduct a thorough analysis of the needs for general hospital equipment and for emergency assistance gear, which will increase the safety of patients. On this basis, we will then create a schedule of the most urgent purchases, to which we will allocate funds in the state budget. Great emphasis will be placed on preventive measures, which will be coordinated by the government and carried out within primary health care, mainly by family physicians.
In recent years, health care professionals have found themselves in an economic situation which is unbalanced and inadequate compared with the responsible role they play in society. It is a legitimate source of frustration and discontent. Through the introduction of universal health insurance and other changes in the healthcare system, the proper social position of medical professions will be restored. Eventually, most doctors will be able to fulfil their calling as independent professionals, whereas nurses, midwives, medical technicians and other employees will be protected by collective labor contracts.
Poland’s economic transformation must be carried out in cooperation with the major social partners. Negotiated agreements between employees and employers and social rest within the Polish economy are important conditions for the country’s overall economic and social development. Our coalition will adopt modern legislation on labor relations and social partner dialogues, drawing on the ideas of solidarity. We will present to Parliament the draft law on the Tripartite Commission for Social and Economic Affairs, which will develop independent opinions on the social and economic policies of the state. This commission will include representatives of both employers and of local government.
We also want the collective agreements to be signed – under the new laws to be enacted – only by representative social partners. The laws should specify criteria for true representativeness.
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the House, an assessment of the state of the economy after four years of the coalition government of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and the Polish People’s Party (PSL) must be critical. Although over the years the economy has grown and inflation has fallen, other problems mounted in parallel, including the growth of both the trade deficit and the nation’s current account deficit. This came as a simple consequence of failing to undertake the necessary reforms. Inflation is falling too slowly, privatization is delayed, and Poland’s economy is constrained by numerous red tape regulations that make life difficult for entrepreneurs. The restructuring of many key areas of Poland’s economy is postponed year after year.
The government aims to quickly improve the living conditions of Polish families and to avoid the threatening crisis in public finances by promoting rapid economic growth (growth that is three times faster than in Western Europe), by cutting inflation and by faster job creation. To make this happen, we will accelerate decentralization of both public finances and privatization. We will carry out the transfer of property rights and re-privatization. We will dismantle monopolies. We will reduce red tape in the economy by eliminating overgrown licenses and rationing systems, as well as needless or harmful regulation. We will appoint a government commission with the participation of business organizations in order to review the regulations.
Maintaining macroeconomic stability must be accompanied by institutional reforms regarding the spending of public money. In addition, we will gradually develop new elements of economic policy – the policy of economic development – by building a system for investment in infrastructure, by linking education with the needs of the economy, by building a new system for supporting small businesses, by developing new financial institutions and instruments, and finally, by regional policy, closely linked to the restructuring of certain industries.
Economic growth will also be supported by the state’s financial policy and a stable tax regime.
Gradually, as economic growth strengthens, the tax burden on the economy, particularly direct taxation, will be reduced. My government will counter inflation first by getting the budget deficit under control, and then we will gradually reduce the deficit. We will prepare a law on the financial responsibility of the state. We will increase monetary discipline, by reinforcing the strong position of the central bank. We will facilitate access to loans for small and medium enterprises, craftsmen, and merchants.
We will maintain the enacted income tax cuts and we will simplify and stabilize the tax system by amending the tax law.
Poland’s economy must rise to great challenges. Therefore, it is necessary to actively support the competitiveness and modernization of domestic industry and to promote a pro-export orientation. We will create conditions for restructuring companies in key industrial sectors, enabling them to adapt to market conditions and achieve sustainable profitability. We will remove barriers limiting domestic and foreign investment. We will protect the state’s strategic interests in certain industries through special legal arrangements.
Financial support for restructuring processes may apply to those business entities which have a chance to survive in the market. In cases where the existing jobs are lost, the key task will be to determine how new jobs can be created Available resources should be allocated in such a way as to enable retraining of employees from failed enterprises.
The problems of safety nets and social security programs for the restructured industries will be negotiated with the trade unions.
My government is aware of the particular situation of the coal mining industry: that sector is facing the biggest challenges, whereas coal production and prices are crucial for the development and competitiveness of Poland’s economy. The additional problem is that almost all hard coal mines and coal processing plants are located in just one region.
We will review and begin to implement the program for motorway construction. In this area, almost nothing has been done for the last four years. We will start restructuring the Polish State Railways (PKP) and start preparations for their privatization. We will begin to develop the transport infrastructure, and we will improve road traffic safety.
We will pass a new law on telecommunications, in accordance with European Union regulations. We will privatize Polish Telecom (Telekomunikacja Polska SA). We will create a market for telecommunication services.
In today’s Poland, unemployment is the biggest problem in rural areas and small towns.
A new Poland, which is fair and does not waste its potential, must give opportunity to all its people, to all communities. This requires support for the development of villages and small towns.
We will accelerate changes in the areas which are particularly lagging in the development of technological and social infrastructure. We will prioritize creation of new jobs in rural areas. We will raise the level of education there.
The goal of my government’s agricultural policy is multifunctional rural development and the modernization of agriculture, and in particular ensuring the development of modern and sustainable family farms.
We will stabilize the agricultural product market in order to shape farmers’ incomes and protect the interests of consumers. My government will conduct an efficient policy to prevent distortions in the market for agricultural and food products – especially distortions caused by the import of subsidized or low quality food. We will promote and support the export of agricultural products. We will include Polish experts to work on the final form of the European Charter for Rural Areas. We will properly prepare ourselves for negotiations concerning our membership in the European Union.
In the coming years, a social insurance policy will be developed within the Agricultural Social Insurance Fund. At the same time we will work on creating agricultural pension funds that will operate on principles close to those at the heart of the systems for other occupational groups.
We are strong supporters of sustainable development of the country. Adequate protection of the natural environment is one of the fundamental conditions for a good life. This is also an additional cost of economic development. But we want to bear – and should bear – this cost. Our natural environment is, after all, a part of our national heritage.
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the House, ensuring competent personnel in state offices and across the whole public sector is a precondition for a fair and efficient state, finally breaking with its communist past. This includes conducting a proper vetting procedure for their selection. We will separate political activity from the work of the professional civil service. In selection of civil servants, we will use the principle of competition, while retaining a certain a preference for graduates of the National School of Public Administration. However, it is necessary to change the current law in such a way that the selection does not require seven years of work in managerial positions, as this regulation artificially promotes staffers educated during the communist period.
We will introduce regulations which require high-level state officials to submit full declarations of their personal property.
We will submit to the Sejm a draft law on the transparency of public life and on the universal access by citizens to the files accumulated by the communist secret police. We will finally implement the Lustration Act, and at the same we will strive for its necessary amendment.
The primary task of the coalition and its government is to improve the safety of every citizen by improving the work of the police, law enforcement, and justice systems. This goal will be achieved by efficient, professional, and reorganized police and special services. We should definitely increase the effectiveness of law enforcement so that the new criminal law does not become a dead letter.
The government will undertake rapid action, such as by reducing the employment of police officers in back offices, so that we can increase the number of police patrols on the streets. We will create a system of police contact with local communities and their representatives in order to encourage self-organization of citizens, common preventive actions, and neighborhood assistance.
We will restore the apolitical character and non-partisan nature of the special services. The State Protection Bureau (UOP) should be under the control of the government and Parliament. The government should set tasks for the special services and evaluate their work on the basis of results achieved. It is unacceptable for intelligence or counterintelligence services to set their own goals or support one of the sides in political disputes. This requires very profound changes in these special services, rebuilding their structures, and human resources.
Justice is the foundation on which a strong state must be based. But it is currently in deep crisis. In order to give people the right to legal protection, and ensure their respect for the state, we need to facilitate the access of citizens to an efficient and quick justice system, and we have to reform the public prosecution service.
We will create magistrate courts for simple civil and criminal cases and offences, in order to speed up the administration of justice. We will increase requirements for persons holding managerial positions in the judiciary. Removal of people who during the communist years of the Polish People’s Republic (PRL) betrayed judicial independence will ensure that judges have a real and undisputed respect and authority.
We will take actions to reform the public prosecution service. We need to prevent any political use of the prosecution functions.
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the House, assuaging the effects of the flood disaster that struck Poland this summer – especially in the southern regions of the country – will be the first great test of our effectiveness2.
Flood-affected areas urgently need a realistic reconstruction program. Such a plan is already being prepared. When creating and implementing this program, we cannot allow the reconstruction to mean restoration of yesterday’s infrastructure, which is in large part obsolete. Reconstruction of the flood-stricken areas should contribute to their modernization.
To minimize the effects of similar disasters in the future, we need to improve the functioning of the state. It is essential to create a modern system for coordinating the operations of various services at the time of natural disasters and environmental catastrophes.
We need an apolitical, competently led army, subject to civil control, to guard our borders. For this purpose we will create the National State Defense System and increase spending on military modernization. We will continue and intensify actions aimed at adapting the Polish armed forces to the requirements of Poland’s membership in NATO.
We will introduce clear rules for the functioning of the state during emergencies and armed conflicts. The fundamental part of our national defense will be assured by less numerous but more efficient armed forces. We will systematically reduce the time of compulsory military service.
We will rationalize military spending and get rid of the ballast of useless infrastructure. We will introduce clear and transparent procedures for purchasing equipment and weapons for the army, with particular emphasis on the role of the Polish armaments industry.
An independent state means a sovereign foreign policy. Eight years ago, we regained the possibility to administer such a policy.
One can say that the main lines of independent Poland’s foreign policy are unwavering. Simply said, Poland is and will remain in the circle of Western civilization, and that determines our foreign policy.
The priority of full military and political integration of the Republic of Poland with NATO is not a result of our fear of anyone. Rather, it results from the consistent will of the nation to be fully and unquestionably affiliated with the Euro-Atlantic world.
Poland’s initial discussions with the Atlantic Alliance have already been completed with good results. The Polish government, aware of the costs and responsibilities, and bolstered by public support, expects that the Republic of Poland will become a full member of NATO in 1999.
National security has more dimensions than just a military one. Economic and social stability as well as anchoring our young democracy in international structures are equally important. Therefore, it will be our priority – on a par with NATO – to join the European Union. The announcement by the EU of the imminent start of negotiations with selected countries, naming Poland among them, puts an obligation on us to coordinate the necessary actions and accelerate the adjustment processes.
During these negotiations, we will ensure that in the process of Poland’s integration with European structures, Polish identity is respected.
Secure, democratic, and prosperous Europe does not enclose itself within its geographical borders. In this regard, the United States of America can also be regarded as one of its elements.
We believe that maintaining US military and political presence on our continent is of strategic interest to Poland and to the whole of Europe. It is my government’s will to raise relations with our American partner to the highest possible level.
When on a map of Europe we draw a line connecting Paris, Berlin, and Warsaw, we get a picture of some kind of a “backbone of Europe”. This explains the importance we attach to the Weimar Triangle, that is, to our relations with Germany and France.
More broadly speaking – bilateral relations with Western European countries are an integral component of our integration strategy.
We will also undertake some integration efforts on a regional scale. After five years of its existence, the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA)3 has proved to be a success, both economically and politically. We think about deepening and expanding this agreement.
Common interests are also connecting countries grouped in the Council of the Baltic Sea States, an organization with great prospects for the future. The Central European Initiative has also proved its usefulness. Mutual relations between Poland and Ukraine are better than anyone could have imagined just a few years ago. I believe that these examples allow us to entertain the reasonable hope that Poland will play a significant role in the European integration processes.
Now, let me refer to my personal experience.
Sixteen years ago, at the first congress of „Solidarność”, we adopted the “Message to the Nations of Central and Eastern Europe”4.
At that time, its content seemed to go far beyond our real possibilities. Today, we are neighbors with our historical partners: a free Ukraine and a free Lithuania. Our support for democratic and market reforms in these countries is for us both a moral duty and a political interest.
In this context, I have to express deep concern about the situation in Belarus. This country, situated in a key location in the area between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea, seems to be evolving in a different direction to the rest of Europe. I want to believe that this is only a temporary trend.
The new government under my leadership will pay special attention to relations with Russia. Without the historical burden carried by the previous coalition, we will try to base Polish-Russian relations on partnership and make them as good as the mutual acquaintance of the Poles and Russians is. We have large fields of common interest to develop, particularly in the economic and cultural fields. The Polish government’s intentions in this matter are as good as they possibly could be.
We have special connections with Hungary and the Czech Republic. Our common political objectives are associated with the closeness of our nations. I also hope that Slovakia – a natural partner of our three countries – will share our goals and aspirations, and the manner of their implementation.
While focusing on our immediate neighborhood, I have to mention our sincere support for the reform processes in Romania and Bulgaria, which have been visibly accelerated and which are bringing these countries ever closer to Western structures.
We have particularly close relations with the Holy See. The presence of the Polish Pope in the Vatican strengthens Poland’s position in the world and is rightly the subject of national pride. As one of the first acts of the new government, we decided to submit to Parliament a draft law on the ratification of the Concordat between the Republic of Poland and the Holy See.
And finally, the issue to which the Polish government will attach great importance: Polish people abroad. I declare an open door policy for our compatriots in the West and in the East. In the very near future we will facilitate the procedure for obtaining citizenship of the Republic of Poland by our compatriots abroad, especially those in the East. Poland has not forgotten you!
Poland’s foreign policy carried out by my government will be the policy of sovereign and determined defense of Polish interests, and a policy which will not be developed exclusively behind closed doors. I would like the objectives and principles I spoke about to be the goals of all citizens. The government will pursue this policy with the Poles and for the Poles.
Members of the House, I am near the end of my speech. I have introduced to you the main projects aimed at implementing the first three tasks of my Cabinet. But I have not mentioned the measures for implementing the fourth task: strengthening the world of values. This issue, which I believe is the most important one, I have left for the end.
Ladies and gentlemen, let us remember that only a nation which is strengthened by a robust community of recognized and respected cultural values can rise to the challenges of modern civilization. There can be no strong Poland without moral order, without recognition of truth as the foundation of social and public life, without an appeal to patriotism, to the Christian roots of our civilization, and to the love of freedom, without respect for the nation’s dignity.
At this point, I want to turn to the creators of culture and remind them of their meeting with Marian Krzaklewski at the Royal Castle in Warsaw. Let me recall the words of Solidarity Electoral Action’s leader: “The world needs to build a new civilization. A civilization in which human freedom and human autonomy is balanced by family ties, bonds of human solidarity, a modern patriotism, and faith. This is a job for you as the people of culture, Polish culture.”
Members of the House, we want values to permeate all spheres of social life. I am thinking about education, about law, about treating people according to the basic moral principle of personalism. Here, I will mention the sphere which is probably most important: culture. My government will support the efforts of the people of culture. We will protect national heritage. We will create better conditions – than those existing today – for creative work, we will favor wide accessibility of cultural goods. We will implement a program of cultural education in the media.
Members of the House, the election results have given us the right to implement our political program. They also oblige us to carry out our projects. My government will take quick, vigorous action. We will be making all the necessary decisions – including the difficult ones, which are not always popular, but which are nevertheless needed if we are to bring about positive change in a short period of time.
I will do everything possible to ensure that my cabinet makes a real breakthrough in thinking and in action. I will ensure that we do not focus only on current administrative work, but rather that we carry through a well-thought-out plan of the most important strategic actions needed. I will do everything possible to strengthen the authority of the state, of our Republic of Poland.
This government, the coalition government, will be coherent. It will be competent and effective, because it needs to be to carry out the tasks that face it. Because that, indeed, is the expectation of our electorate.
Mr. Speaker, Members of the House, in accordance with Article 154 of the Constitution, I hereby ask for your vote of confidence in the Council of Ministers appointed by the President of the Republic of Poland.
Ladies and Gentlemen, together we will build a Poland worthy of the 21st century, a country we can be proud of. I wish that Poland be built not only by those who voted for Solidarity Electoral Action or the Freedom Union. I wish it to be a Poland for all people of good will, Poland built by all people of good will.
I sincerely hope that our energy will not be wasted in idle political disputes but will be channeled into resolving the problems faced by our country, the great challenges of the future.
I promise you that my government and I personally will do our best to make all this happen. So that our children and grandchildren are able to live in the country of our dreams.
I will do everything to make it happen!
So help me God!