Full transcript from the 2010 Atlantic Council Freedom Awards Dinner held in Wroclaw, Poland.
PRESIDENT AND CEO,
THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
LADIES IN WHITE (LAS DAMAS DE BLANCO)
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2010
FREDERICK KEMPE: Good evening to you all. On behalf of the Atlantic Council, let me welcome you to the council’s second annual Freedom Awards Dinner. Now, let me give you a little bit of a forewarning.
The Atlantic Council does working dinners. That means some of the speeches and some of the comments and some of the awards will take place at a time when you’ll actually have food in front of you and when you’re served. In an important evening like that, that’s actually inescapable and so I apologize for that.
What I would ask you all to do is be very gentle with your fork and your knife and try to give the speakers as much respect as you can by keeping the noise down, please, while they are speaking. For me, it really makes no difference. You can talk and you can eat and clink as much as you want.
But we are – I want to give my thanks, first of all, to our partners. First and foremost, Rafał Dutkiewiz, the mayor of Wrocław, where, literally, this wouldn’t be done without him – and Pawel Świeboda at demosEUROPA. (Applause.) We’re also deeply grateful to our good friends, Ambassador Lee Feinstein – it must be said, I said Lee Feinstein a couple of times today but that’s because I’m of German heritage and my grandfather was born here so I was thinking Feinstein.
But I really want to thank the ambassador, again, this would not have happened the way it did without his active involvement. And he’s co-chair of this Freedom Awards Dinner, as is Robert Kupiecki, the Polish ambassador to the U.S. And I really want you to give a round of applause to both of the ambassadors for the work they’re doing on our cause. (Applause.)
As today’s forum demonstrated, Central Europe is a critical partner as we look to reinvigorate the trans-Atlantic partnership for leadership on global values. One of our speakers, Jiří Schneider, said today this is not about the U.S. doing something in Central Europe but about doing something with Central Europe and, more broadly, with Europe, but with Central Europe being seen as being in the center of Europe.
We heard a lot of issues today, but most prominently, talk about Russia, talk about Turkey, talk about energy security, talk about Afghanistan, talk about the future of NATO. What we really saw – and this will be part of the theme of this evening – is it’s like a team that has won this incredible victory in the Cold War that really changed the world and ushered in a new period of globalization.
But we have to regroup and we have to think about, what do we do for an encore? And we heard a number of issues. And particularly, Nick Grey (ph) at the end – an old friend of mine – made a call upon the speakers for a greater vision. But he hadn’t heard nearly enough vision during the day and I want to echo that here because the people we’re honoring tonight are people of vision and we need that vision now.
On the 30th anniversary of the birth of solidarity we could think of no place better to host our Freedom Awards than Poland and, in particular, the city of Wrocław. This city’s rich, cultural heritage and historic role in spreading the message of solidarity across borders provides the perfect backdrop.
The Atlantic Council Freedom Awards recognize extraordinary individuals who have made a defining contribution to the struggle for freedom. Last year, we inaugurated the Freedom Awards in Berlin at the Hotel Adlon on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. This moment in history was a critical milestone, a vindication of history that freedom can prevail.
And I must say, I, now, whenever I see someone young and Polish in the world – it must be said that if you travel a lot in the world, I can hardly believe you have this large of a population for how many young Poles one finds in one place or another in the world.
I always stop and I say to them, do you actually understand you changed the history of the world? Do you understand the courage of your fathers and grandfathers changed history? And they always look at me quizzically as if they don’t quite believe what they’re hearing. But it is true and it’s not just Polish fathers and grandfathers. It’s fathers and grandfathers from this entire region, at one point or another, risked more than Americans have had to risk for quite some time for their freedom.
In Berlin, we paid tribute to those who brought about a peaceful end to the Cold War. We presented awards to Secretary Hillary Clinton, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, Berlin Mayor Klaus Woereit and Adm. James Stavridis on behalf – so we gave these awards to them on behalf of the American people, the German people, Allied troops and the people of Berlin. They were accepting on behalf of people who were heroic during those days. We also honored two champions of Central Europe’s struggle for freedom on their own behalf – Lech Wałęsa and Vaclav Havel.
This evening, we will commemorate the birth of solidarity by celebrating the power of solidarity’s message around the world and the remarkable success story of Central Europe’s transformation after the Cold War. We will recognize former High Rep. Javier Solana for his vision and leadership in overseeing the expansion of our Euro-Atlantic institutions and of course, much more.
We will honor President Aleksander Kwaśniewski for his steadfast leadership in the roundtable in bringing Poland in Europe’s fold and securing its membership in NATO and European Union and of course, much more.
We will honor President Jerzy Buzek not only for his public service in his native Poland and his own struggle for freedom here; but for his historic nomination as president of the European Parliament – who, if you had told me when I was covering Poland in 1980, that there would be a Polish head of the European Parliament, I would have taken a big bet on that and I would have bet against – and his unstoppable commitment to the cause of freedom worldwide.
These men were critical to securing a Europe whole and free, though, it’s not complete yet. But as Poles know very well, the message of solidarity does not stop in Europe. At the council, we recognize that to remain relevant, the trans-Atlantic community must advance universal democratic values and support those fighting for freedom around the globe.
So finally, tonight, we will also honor the Damas de Blanco – or Ladies in White – for the courageous call for freedom in Cuba. We have Blanca Reyes, the spokeswoman for the Ladies in White here tonight to receive the award on behalf of all the Damas. These women have bravely marched the streets of Havana to call for the release of their family members who were imprisoned and given sentences of up to 28-year sentences for their loved ones, for simply speaking their mind. We honor, tonight, their courage and determination.
These awardees exemplify the values for which our trans-Atlantic community stands and which we should be proud to advance as universal values all around the world. So thank you for joining us in Wrocław. Just a couple of logistical issues so that you know this evening will run.
We will have our first two awardees before your main course. We will then take a break for your main course where you can talk freely at your tables – then the second two awardees. And then afterwards, please do join us outside on the terrace, for what I have been told by people who have seen it, will be a quite special and incredible fountain show presented by the city of Wrocław.
Tonight’s performance integrating light, music and, of course, water will be “Beauty and the Beast”. You’ll have to decide who at this conference has been beauty and who has been the beast. And then busses will depart from the drop-off point following the show. It is cool outside and you may want to grab your jackets before going to the show.
So now, let me thank you for joining us. I know you’re going to enjoy the special celebration of freedom in this beautiful city. And at this point I want to hand the stage to the visionary mayor of Wrocław, Rafał Dutkiewicz. (Applause.)
RAFAŁ DUTKIEWICZ: Good evening. Now, sitting around the table number nine, President Kwaśniewski, President Solana, President Buzek. May I ask you for applause for them? (Applause.) Stronger, stronger, stronger, stronger, stronger. (Applause.) I will be, shortly, talking about Wrocław.
It happened, maybe, 15 years ago in Padua, in Italy. We spent, I mean, my family and me, we spent our vacation there. And there was an Italian guy who was teaching my little son how to swim properly in the swimming pool. And my wife asked me to say, thank you very much, to him. Therefore in the evening, in a bar, we were drinking grappa and I asked him, where do you come from? He was from Rome.
And his reaction was – he asked me where I was from. And I told him, you wouldn’t know. I am from the city of Wrocław. And he said, oh, Wrocław, Cieszyce (ph), Oleśniczka (ph), Łukaszowice (ph), the issue was, those are small villages around Wrocław, really small villages around Wrocław.
And the issue was he was appointed by NATO and responsible for bombing this area – (laughter) – and there were military airports in those villages. (Applause.) And the point is, nowadays, we do belong to NATO; nowadays, we do belong to the European Union and there is a meeting of Atlantic Council. There was a trans-Atlantic discussion in the city of Wrocław.
I am really honored to have it here. It’s because of the friendship with our European – but especially with our American friends. I wanted to ask Mr. Ambassador Lee Feinstein or Feinstein to join me. I have this – Lee, will you join me? Before he will be talking to you, I wish to present the Wrocław Medal of Merit to His Excellency, Lee Feinstein, ambassador of the United States. (Applause.) Thank you all.
AMBASSADOR LEE FEINSTEIN: That was a surprise. Thank you very much, Mr. Mayor, and thank you for hosting this incredible event here in this beautiful hall. I visited Wrocław for the first time in July, and saw this beautiful place, adjunct to the famous Millennium Hall, under construction. And I could tell right away that it would be the perfect place to host the trans-Atlantic forums. So thank you, Mr. Mayor, for being such a great host and thank you for this incredible honor. (Applause.)
President Kwaśniewski, President Buzek, Rep. Solana, Las Damas de Blanco, Mayor Dutkiewicz, our great partners from the Atlantic Council, my friends Fred Kempe, Maciej Witucki, Fran Burwell and our partners from demosEUROPA, honored guests. (In Polish.) (Applause.)
It’s a privilege to cohost this year’s Freedom Awards Dinner, and it is especially fitting, as Fred Kempe said, that the awards are being presented here in Poland. I first traveled to Poland 30 years ago, a few months before the historic shipyard strikes in Gdańsk, and at that time, few could have imagined what we see here today, what we see tonight, a resilient and prosperous and growing Poland, the sixth-largest nation of the European Union, a strong and proud NATO ally.
President Obama said in honoring Solidarity’s 30th anniversary, “Poland has taken its rightful place in the community of democratic nations, advancing the cause of freedom and human dignity around the world.”
And tonight, as people in this room and as our honorees remind us, this outcome was far from inevitable. It required vision, determination and courage. It required the bravery of a small group of Poles who dared to dream that it was possible to stand up to a totalitarian regime, to forge a mass movement and to reclaim their freedom.
And as we were also reminded by the Wrocław Global Forum, they were critically helped in a supporting role by a trans-Atlantic community – people like us who supported the freedom fighters and who pushed for Poland’s full integration into NATO and into Europe. In 1989, Poland was the domino that caused the fall of the Communist system in Central and Eastern Europe, and as Fred said, Poland and its brave people changed the world.
And now, Poland still gives hope to millions denied freedom and opportunity around the world. Democracy activists to the East look to Poland. In Cuba, democrats study and emulate Poland’s examples of civil disobedience. In the past year, I’ve met with democracy activists visiting Poland from the Middle East, from the Balkans, from Afghanistan. They have come here to learn firsthand about Poland’s bold and skillful democratic transition.
The United States is honored to count Poland as a close ally and close friend. Poland is a leading member of the trans-Atlantic community. Poland plays a vital role in strengthening ties between Europe and the United States, and it is very gratifying to see the Atlantic Council, one of America’s leading NGOs, working hand-in-hand with demosEUROPA to strengthen strategic cooperation between the United States and the European Union.
As I said last night and as was discussed throughout the day today, cooperation between the United States and Europe is truly more important than ever, and this is a partnership not only based on shared interests, but also based on principles and values.
Tonight, we honor a group of individuals who share this deep and abiding commitment. President Kwaśniewski guided Poland through 10 years of transition, the adoption of a new democratic constitution and accession both to NATO and the European Union. He has worked tirelessly to promote freedom and tolerance across Europe.
As a Solidarity activist, Polish prime minister, member of the European Parliament, and now, the president of that distinguished body, Jerzy Buzek has also been a force for freedom in Europe, and the European Union is itself a powerful motivator to build a Europe whole and free.
Throughout his career, most recently as European Union’s high representative and NATO secretary general, Javier Solana has made lasting contributions to the cause of freedom and democracy around the world. He is a great friend of the United States. And tonight, we also honor Las Damas de Blanco, the Ladies in White, who bravely continue the struggle for freedom in Cuba and who remind us of the price people pay for fighting that fight.
Professor Geremek, the beloved foreign minister – the beloved Polish foreign minister said at the founding of the Community of Democracies 10 years ago in Poland, “regardless of the problems inseparably associated with democracy, it is a system which best fulfills the aspiration of individuals, societies, entire peoples, and most fully satisfies their needs of development, empowerment and creativity.”
No country shows the truth of these words better than Poland. No city symbolizes the success of Poland’s post-Communist transformation better than Wrocław, and it is fitting that the Atlantic Council will be presenting the Freedom Awards here. (In Polish.) (Applause.)
PAWEL ŚWIEBODA: Lee, I am very happy to be the first one to congratulate you on your new medal, and I am sure it’s the first one in a long series of medals, decorations, awards and prizes you will receive for your distinguished service here in Poland.
But as co-organizer of Wrocław Global Forum, I am here to thank the Atlantic Council for bringing their Freedom Awards to Wrocław tonight. As Fred said, Poland and Wrocław is the right place, not only because so much of freedom in Europe was born here, but also because it’s so fresh. The memory of our fight for freedom is so fresh that we still cherish it, that we still value freedom because of how hard it was to achieve it.
When I think about freedom, I immediately think of Hannah Arendt and her attitude to freedom, and she always stressed that freedom is not about representation. It’s about participation and action. This is an activist vision of freedom, and our awardees tonight very much fall into this category.
But I think global – since we are at the Wrocław Global Forum – global is important as well, because the global dimension is very often an escape from the normative world of values. We very often use the global dimension as an excuse. We tend to say, China, India are rushing ahead. We have to concentrate on catching up rather than on our values.
So this is the right occasion to speak about freedom, and I can think of a long wish-list of future awardees of the Atlantic Council and let’s hope that this wish of freedom spreading in the world will materialize.
And now, we will start the ceremony, and the first to introduce the awardee is Ambassador Jerzy Koźmiński, who is himself a freedom fighter in Poland and in Eastern Europe. Jerzy Koźmiński. (Applause.)
JERZY KOŹMIŃSKI: Ladies and gentlemen, it’s my great honor and distinct privilege to be here tonight to introduce one of those very special public figures who obviously need no introduction, either here in Poland or internationally, but I hope President Kwaśniewski will not disapprove my recalling some facts to be delivered in headlines because of the time constraints imposed by the conference.
So the very origin of our – this civic activity, which I remember very well, was in the ‘70s when he was involved in a student movement combining both the grassroots actions with growing concern over the country. In the late ‘80s, after a few years in journalism, he was offered a position in the government and soon, as the youngest leader of the plural reform – (inaudible) – there, he became one of the architects of the historic roundtable talks of 1989.
Those talks, along with the June parliamentarian elections, as well as the establishment of the Solidarity-led government, triggered a chain reaction across the whole region, paving the way towards freedom, democracy and market economy in Central and Eastern Europe. After that historic breakthrough of ‘89, generated by the Solidarity movement, during those 20 years of a free Poland, Aleksander Kwaśniewski has passed through three major stages in his public life.
During the first stage until ‘95, he continued the efforts aimed at strengthening of the democratic process in the country. He chaired a special commission in the Polish parliament that had a task of paramount importance to write a new constitution. The task was successfully accomplished and a few years later, the parliament adopted the constitution. The second stage was the most visible and momentous. In 1995, he was elected president of the country, and five years later, he won again to serve another term in office until 2005.
Four strategic tasks filled his 10-year-long presidency. The first, to provide Poland lasting security through anchoring the country in NATO; the second, to foster Poland’s full development by bringing the country in the European Union; the third, to promote good relations with all our neighbors and develop regional cooperation as well as advocate from within the open-door policies both for NATO and EU. And the fourth task was to help continue and consolidate the Polish domestic transformation.
Well, I had a particularly good opportunity in Washington, D.C., to follow and admire President Kwaśniewski’s endeavors, aimed at bringing about the first round of NATO enlargement and subsequently the second round of that process. And also today, we might take for granted Central European countries’ membership in the alliance. In the middle of the ‘90s, it was not that clear.
In the last leg of Poland’s marathon – which was very important because of the NATO ratification challenge in the U.S. Senate – President Kwaśniewski’s efforts were vigorously coupled by Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek and his government. The inclusion of Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary into the Euro-Atlantic community of free and democratic nations sharing the same values, President Kwaśniewski embraced as a symbolic moral constellation of the Yalta order, an act which the then-Secretary Gen. Javier Solana called “the triumph of justice over history.”
Subsequently, President Kwaśniewski firmly championed an open-door policy for the alliance as well as EU. His support stemmed from the Polish feeling of solidarity with nations with whom the Poles had for decades shared the same lot, and with whom they are now sharing the same aspirations.
That approach also led President Kwaśniewski to his widely recognized involvement in the Orange Revolution in Ukraine his second presidential term, also Poland’s engagement in trans-Atlantic relations deepening further. To a large extent, that was caused by September 11 and its implication, including the war on terror.
And now, the third current stage of President Kwaśniewski’s post-’89 activity began five years ago upon the successful conclusion of his decade in office. During this stage, he has remained very active and faithful to the goals and ideas that guided him over the previous years. He has focused further on the East as well on other post-Communist countries.
His involvement, however, reaches far beyond the East. A good example might be a conference promoting democratic change in Cuba, jointly initiated with former President Lech Wałęsa. And, needless to say, he continues to be committed to the strengthening of trans-Atlantic relations.
Concluding my headlines, let me come back to our college years, and I would like to say that Aleksander Kwaśniewski has not changed since those days, and perhaps that might explain why he has achieved so much, always greatly open-minded, fascinated by the world and people, able to attract and mobilize them, gifted in building bridges, focused on forward-looking solutions, and always, as far as I can remember, he knew that good ideas need not only wings but also landing gear.
So ladies and gentlemen, it is in the spirit of those few remarks that I would like to introduce to you, President Aleksander Kwaśniewski. (Applause.)
ALEKSANDER KWAŚNIEWSKI: Distinguished guests, dear friends, presidents, members of the parliament, all of you, first, I’m greatly honored by this award and really this is something that is extremely important in my political life. And I’m really moved and obliged by everything that my good and old friend Jerzy Koźmiński said during the last minutes. And, please, because of this wonderful introduction speech or laudation, my answer will be a little bit serious and a little bit not very serious, but I start with such a remark.
When last time I was in Washington and it was Atlantic Council ceremony to award the main heroes of German unification, I listened to speeches of Clinton about Bush, Gates about others, Brzezinski, et cetera, and then Zbigniew Brzezinski was next to me at the table and I said to him in Polish, what I’m jealous Americans, that you can speak with such respect about your predecessors, about your leaders, about your politicians, and it’s not necessary to be dead. It’s possible to listen to these nice words living.
So I’m so glad to Jerzy Koźmiński that I had this chance, and that is very unique in our tradition, and even I remember such quite funny situation exactly. In the hall, you have some specialists of Polish history. It was a funeral of Prime Minister Cyrankiewicz, and then in the group was a very – at that time deputy speaker of the parliament, Mieczyslaw Rakowski, next prime minister, and I was a very young member of Communist government.
And I don’t know who had this funeral laudation, but it was very boring, and Rakowski told me, but on my funeral, you have to speak. (Laughter.) Well, it was surprise for me. I was young and I was not prepared. And after some seconds, Rakowski – (inaudible) – but (thesis ?) I will prepare. (Laughter, applause.) I’m an extremely happy man because, frankly speaking, Jerzy, the theses are prepared.
Thank you very much. Thank you very much and it was great and I appreciate our friendship. I appreciate our collaboration, and the relations very long time. We met the first time in the mid of ‘70s, and you don’t know about it, but I can inform you that it’s during this Polish breakthrough, 1980 during Solidarity, we were members of Socialist Union of Students, and we prepared the declaration.
And the beginning of this declaration, the first sentence was, we just returned from the vacations totally changed. And then I didn’t find, very long time, this declaration, and even maybe during my presidency, I found this document and I was a little bit nervous. Maybe it’s naïve; it’s not so good and clever. And I met Jerzy Koźmiński and we discussed this document, and we are still very proud about our thinking, which wasn’t revolutionary but was quite clever, pragmatic in those times.
I am grateful to Jerzy Koźmiński because of his fantastic service for Poland, especially as ambassador to Washington. Then we were both on the very high positions and we worked for the future of our country. And I tell you, if you want to see the man who, in each element of his life and life of the state, of our state, but a life of international community is fully engaged and responsible, Ambassador Jerzy Koźmiński is one of them. Jerzy, many thanks. (Applause.)
Of course, I’m honored because this Freedom Award – because the problem was not so easy, sometimes quite complicated, but that is not the time to speak about all details or elements. I’ll tell you one thing, and that is a person very much connected with Wrocław because in Wrocław you have archive of – (inaudible) – you have archive of director – very longtime director of Free Europe, Jan Nowak-Jezioranski.
And I remember Jerzy Koźmiński was a participant, a witness of this meeting in the middle of my presidency, and Jan Nowak-Jezioranski, who decided to move to Warsaw, invited me to the dinner. We were in four persons, Jerzy Koźmiński, Christopher Hill, Jan Nowak-Jezioranski and myself. Dinner was okay, the atmosphere very good.
And, finally, old man, Jan Nowak-Jezioranski, said to me, but I have something what I should tell you. I should apology. I said, why – what is the reason? And I didn’t remember this reason. And he told me, you remember I was on the Wałęsa side, the man who participated in debate, public debate on Polish TV, and the in the last minutes of this debate I said that if you will vote Kwaśniewski, you have no chances to be a member of NATO and you have no chances to be a member of the European Union. And, I’m so sorry. I was wrong and your job was excellent.
And, frankly speaking, it was one of the most important compliments and recognition in my political life. The process was complicated. The process was not obvious from the very beginning, but we achieved these two goals. We are in NATO. We are in European Union. And what I want to say, that among you here in this hall, I see a lot of years of this complicated process.
Unfortunately, it’s a little bit too dark to name – to mention your names, to say to everybody how I’m grateful to you. Jerzy I said. Prime Minister Buzek is next, sitting here, but we have such maybe not very well-known heroes like Sedgersh Nayer (ph), President Dutkiewiz in his capacity as well, and more and more and more. Really, it was a common effort. It was a common job.
And I’m extremely happy and satisfied in this time of Polish window of opportunity, of Polish possibility to reach these goals, we organized such common efforts. And of course, that is not very modest. What I will tell you now, these common efforts needed good leadership, and I understand that this award shows finally who was this best leader. (Laughter, applause).
Wrocław is the next short remark. I think Wrocław is this unbelievable place to organize this meeting, and then to understand these complications of the past and of the future and how we can overcome this complicated past.
Very few people in Europe and even in Poland knew or know that the war here in this city was even longer as the war in Europe; that after capitulation of Germany, the next days, next hours Festung Breslau, Fortress Wrocław still was fighting. We lost here many thousands of people. Then we had a very special situation of this change of the borders and et cetera, et cetera.
And Wrocław today, Breslau today is a sign that in a very short time – historically speaking, it’s a very short time, 60, 70 years – it’s possible to create a modern city with understanding of tolerance, with understanding of roots of common culture, open for tourists, open for scientists, open for new era.
And I think Wrocław has a good future, which we created together and in which I believe very much and I wish, through President Dutkiewiz, to all citizens of Wrocław successes because I think in European history, in the history of Central Europe, Wrocław plays and has a very special position.
And, finally, what to do in the future? My slogan in the election was, “Let’s Choose the Future,” and still that is the best what a politician can propose to the society. I’m sure that we can be happy, we should be happy, with our position in NATO, in European Union. I think we have more to do. I think we should develop our engagement in our environment, especially in our neighborhood.
We should fight for farther enlargement of both these structures. We should strengthen our cooperation with the United States, but we should understand that this work, the work of the second decade of the 21st century, is very complicated because of new order – new global order, because of lack of tolerance, because of xenophobia, because of terrorism, because of many, many dangers which we can face successfully only together.
Difference – Atlantic Council has such idea to protect the most important values, and I’m glad to be part of this work. I’m very satisfied and honored to have this award. Again, I thank you, Jerzy, for your wonderful words, and I wish Fred Kempe and I wish Atlantic Council and I wish all present guests of today’s gathering successes, because we reached a lot but our job is not finished. The world needs more freedom. Thank you.
NORMAN DAVIES: Ladies and gentlemen, not being a politician, I shall be very brief. (Laughter, applause.) I am one of two people in this room who knows exactly where one can find the great city of Smilovice. President Jerzy Buzek was born there and I have been there. Today, Smiliovice is in the Czech Republic.
A hundred years ago, it was in the Austrian Empire, and it was in the district of the Austrian Empire where there was the greatest percentage of Poles anywhere at all, more than in Krakow, more than in Galicia. It was also a district where the majority of the Polish population was Protestant. And I think this background, this special and rather unusual background, explains something about the great conciliatory skills that Jerzy Buzek has later shown to us.
But Jerzy Buzek is also an engineer – a chemical engineer. Engineers are much more useful than historians. (Laughter, applause.) They have what Americans call a can-do attitude. They do things rather than talking about them.
And this professional background, which President Buzek has, explains why he was able, in 1981, to bring off one of the great political miracles of the Solidarity era, namely keeping order among an extremely unruly first congress of Solidarity.
If you can imagine a nation which had known no freedom for 50 years, they hold their first congress in Gdańsk. They all want to speak at the same time. They all want to have their say. And one person has to keep them in order, and this was Jerzy Buzek – a very fine preparation, I might say, to be prime minister of Poland 20 years later.
During the time that he was prime minister and the time when Aleksander Kwaśniewski was still the president, together they brought Poland into NATO, which was one of the two great successes of that era.
Now, he is an extremely important international figure, one of the people whose face is known even in Oxford. (Laughter.) He is president of the European Parliament, and his success in this position symbolizes Poland’s great success in emerging as a free country in the company of 26 other free countries.
So there is no more person – no person in this room better fitted than President Jerzy Buzek to be a recipient of the Award of Freedom. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
JERZY BUZEK: Ladies and gentlemen, honorable guests, it’s very difficult to take a floor after Norman Davies. (Laughter.) Well, it’s a big challenge in front of me. And, after all, I was informed that it doesn’t matter which language I am going to speak. Of course, for me, it’s much easier to speak Polish, but I found that everybody is speaking English so I would like to try to do the same.
And thank you, Norman, very much for your fantastic, polite words. It’s very difficult for me to protest because it was fine for me. (Laughter.) So well, I wouldn’t like to say anything except thank you very much. And let me say that probably it’s good if I say a few words about you because you are a very important person, I think, even for the whole Europe.
Oxford, as a matter of fact, when I visited you quite a few times, also at your house, it’s a place of your first immigration. I was not far away for this immigration – a few hundred kilometers or maybe 1,000, maybe less. And so second immigration I understand to Poland – maybe not physically but mentally – was much easier.
And I met your son just now. I am very grateful that I could see both of you together while speaking some languages and being a true European. So maybe it’s the best way of organizing our European Union. We must move.
Our immigration inside is very important. Now, we can meet a lot of people in Brussels, in any capital in the European Union. Mother from Sweden, father from Greece; I was born in France but I’m Dutch. (Laughter.) Fantastic, when each – one, two generations may be.
Well, as a matter of fact, you are building your United States for more than 200 years, and having also the great decision at the very beginning that you speak only one language. It’s not possible for us because we are much – we have much longer and deeper heritage here in our continent, so it’s much more difficult. We are jealous because of that, but we wouldn’t like to change our habits to speak different languages. It’s our strength as well and our value, very important.
And let me say that we discovered quite lately that Europe is from Ural to the Atlantic Sea, and from Arctic to Mediterranean. Some years ago, we believed that it is finished on Katyn. So thank you, Norman, once again, for discovering, in your tremendous book, historical book, “Europe,” we can find balance between both parts of our continent or, as a matter of fact, balance which we were waiting for.
Well, I would like to say a few words about our American friends. It’s very important for me, but I am going step by step in this direction. I was informed also that I should speak three minutes. The same was with President Kwaśniewski, but I am going step by step after him, not speaking three minutes at all.
And while I would like to tell you today in European Parliament, together with Prime Minister Lothar de Maizière, first – the first and the last democratically elected prime minister of East Germany, together with Jacques Delors, two terms in office in European Commission – we celebrated 20 years’ anniversary of reunification of Germany – great events in our continent.
It started, as it was said, at the Gdańsk shipyard gate and finished at the (BHP ?). And now, we enjoy freedom, being united in Europe. All the time, every time, all the 20th century, we were together, our American friends. It’s very important to underline every time when we are discussing.
If you are today not as interested in our continent, well, we must be very frank. I spent one week in May in the United States meeting vice president, secretary of state, leader of parliament – of House of Representatives, and so on and so on. And we were talking very frankly about that, because fortunately, Europe can manage just now. It’s easier; it’s going easier.
In Western Balkans, you can see, ladies and gentlemen, that countries which were fighting each other for decades now queuing for the European Union membership. We have our Eastern Partnership. So we should not complain. We should think very seriously about our future, trans-Atlantic relations. Mare Nostrum, our internal lake; Atlantic Ocean; and our single market, free flow of goods, of services, capital and people – it’s something in front of us. Great idea. There’s not a very big ocean between us.
And let me say at the very end, I am very honored because of this very important award, but I feel that this award is for my country rather than for any individual person, because we were preparing ourselves for freedom, together with you, Americans, and together with our friends from Western Europe, which was easier after the war. We were preparing ourselves for freedom for decades, and we could – when we could start in ‘80 and we can just enjoy freedom, democracy and, I am quite sure, prosperity, step by step.
So for me, it’s something unusual, this award. Thank you very, very much on behalf of my country for your presence in the European Continent, for the good future for all of us. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
(The following remarks are delivered via translator.)
MACIEJ WITUSKI: (In Polish.) Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, and my best greetings.
(Mr. Wituski finishes the remainder of his remarks in English.)
I will go back to English. There is a moment in the life of a man when he is standing in front of the great public and he has the biggest challenge of his life to not speak about himself. And I am afraid that I will fail to this challenge today again, and I will start very shortly – because not being a politician, I must take care about not challenging the length of the speeches of President and Prime Minister Buzek.
So very shortly, I will speak about the trans-Atlantic, effectively as a member of the board of the Atlantic Council, the position I am very proud to be a member of. I want to say how much I am happy and proud to host all of you in Wrocław at the Global Forum to discuss about global problems, about the real problems concerning not only Poland but Central Europe and whole this continent, all those problems which are important to all of us from both sides of the Atlantic.
All those problems which are linking us from the two sides of this great ocean, the problems which have been very much in our hearts in Poland as long as this trans-Atlantic link or aspiration was something which kept us alive and active for the 40 years of the Communist regime, something which somehow we probably lost a bit in last years for the very natural reasons. We joined Europe, this free and almost complete Europe – almost complete, remember about it.
We naturally started to build our relations with Berlin, with Brussels, with Paris, with London, finding our natural place in the middle of Europe. But in the same time, we have been, somehow in doing it – and let’s face it, to the detriment of our trans-Atlantic relations, the relations which are very much needed to Poland, to Europe, to the United States. We are still facing global challenges. We are still facing common challenges from the economical-social-political point of view.
And the meeting like this one, the meetings where we are elevating our discussions from the day-to-day problems of Poland, of Europe, of USA, and we are trying to look larger in our common future and the future of our kids are very important. I am very happy and proud as a Pole, as somebody who spent five years of his professional life in the city of Wrocław, that this is happening under the very strong support and umbrella of Rafał Dutkiewicz. Thank you very much for this great event and for your support. (Applause.)
But then I was – finally, I was asked to present and to introduce our awardee of this evening, Javier Solana. And I was reading this biography, and I learned something which – I tested this with many people in this room – he earned a Ph.D. in physics – this is known – but few people know that at that time in Spain, he was already engaged in the resistance to the Franco’s fascist regime. (Applause.)
At a very, very young age, this gentleman was already fighting for freedom and democracy, as we have been doing it in Poland, as Prime Minister Buzek was doing it in Poland, as Rafał Dutkiewicz was doing, many people in this room have been doing in Poland. So it’s not only a smart politician, it’s not only a fine diplomat that is, well, from the very youth, a fighter for freedom and democracy.
Then, of course, there is the more known part of his CV, which is minister in three consecutive governments and then appointment as a general secretary of NATO. And here is another link to Poland. If we wouldn’t have Javier Solana, if we wouldn’t have Bronisław Geremek, if we wouldn’t have Madeleine Albright, Aleksander Kwaśniewski, we wouldn’t be discussing about NATO and trans-Atlantic relations in Wrocław today. So he was a part of this great evolution of our region of Poland.
But as well, because here we are not only about Poland, we are discussing about the region, there is a great evolution of the Central Europe towards trans-Atlantic values. Then, in 2004, Javier Solana was reelected to serve another five-year term as the secretary general of the European Council and as a high representative of CFSP.
And here I will do the link with my job. Javier Solana was very much linked to the fact that the world today, and Central Europe today, and especially one country of Central Europe today is more orange than it used to be before. His role, and President Kwaśniewski’s role in the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, this is something I could speak for, for hours, just to be as eloquent and long as politicians, but I will make it short.
Thank you very much, Javier, for what you have been doing for your country as a student fighting for freedom, what you have been doing to NATO, to Poland, to Central Europe, enlarging it. What you have been doing – what you are doing today for entire region and for these trans-Atlantic relations which are so important, so critical to the future of our kids. Thank you very much, and I invite President Kwaśniewski, who will give some additional details and probably some nicer jokes about Javier before we invite him. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
MR. KWAŚNIEWSKI: Thank you, President Witucki, for this invitation. I promised to Norman Davies and Jerzy Buzek to be very, very short. But first, what is something interesting, what you said on the end of your speech that really, the color of your company, what you advertise, is orange. Well, Javier and me, we are waiting for something – (laughter) – because you know it was a part really of our life, of our achievements, and maybe we can find some – how to say – good agreement with STPSA (ph) if it’s possible.
Two pictures only. Javier was a man who was very much involved in NATO enlargement, and I appreciate – we all appreciate very much his knowledge, his determination. But of course, the process was long, the process was difficult, and I remember the summit in Madrid. And we, Polish delegation, we are waiting for final decision of Madrid summit. We were invited for one concrete hour to participate in the meeting, but is a delay, 30-minutes delay, one-hour delay, more delay.
And of course, our feeling was that something is going wrong. We have no information because still, we are not members of NATO. We were so nervous that I decided to calm us a little bit, to go to walk around – and the meeting was in a very special place, the conference – not conference, it is the ferry (ph), Madrid’s ferry places (ph), close to the airport but not – diplomatically speaking not the nicest place of Madrid. (Laughter.)
So it was nothing to visit, it was only possible to go around, and finally, we are walking, we are nervous, and the car, the limousine stopped with some noise, and Javier is inside, and he started to go to me and to kiss me, and he said in Spanish, hombre, you are members of NATO. (Applause.)
And this – hombre, you are members of NATO, this is one of the best in my memory, and really it was my stone in our history. And gracias, Javier for this very Spanish, very natural, maybe very Catalan reaction for this situation.
And the second, that is what you mentioned, this orange time, Orange Revolution. The situation was extremely complicated, it was really the fear of civil war in Ukraine, and I tried to find understanding and partners in Europe. And my first call after dramatic calls from Yuschenko and Kuchman was to Javier. It was maybe middle of night, maybe very morning, I don’t remember.
But I remember than when I explained the situation, this answer was like the answer of the best friend. That is complicated, but we have to do it. I am ready. When you are going to Kiev? I said, tomorrow morning. Well, I will see, but I will be with you. And the role of Javier Solana to find the positive, peaceful solutions for Ukraine, especially these days and after, are absolutely unique.
What means these two short pictures? That you have not only distinguished politician, a man who served in many position in European structures. You have in front of you, all of us, the real friend. And Javier, for your friendship, for everything what you have done for Poland, for Europe, for Ukraine and for me, many thanks. Gracias, hombre. (Applause.)
JAVIER SOLANA: Thank you. Thank you very much to all the kind words you have said about me. I don’t think I deserve them. But let me say something that comes deep from my heart. If I were to ask to history to receive a prize on freedom, I would like to have it given by this collective assembly of people here, which is the friends in Poland and friends from the United States.
The friends in Poland, I don’t think really that – if I have to make a short CV of my life, I will put in the first line Poland. One day, I will let you know what were the difficulties of enlarging NATO, but it was so clear that it had to be done. It’s so obvious that it had to be done. And there were so few people but important people that were determined to do it that it was done. And I want to share with you, the Polish friends, that for me it was a great pleasure, a great honor.
We spent nights and nights and nights doing military analysis, political analysis. I don’t know how many things we did, but at the end of the day it was obvious that it had to be done. And for me it was a great pleasure, a great honor. And the two people that have spoken about what I did, which it was not very important but it was significant, I have to tell them that really, I have it down in my heart forever.
I remember one day that I will never forget, sentimentally. I was walking in your capital, in Warsaw, and you know the park with the Chopin images there. And on Saturdays and Sundays, the piano sounds and people listen. And it was a moment that I was walking with my family because I wanted to bring my family – my wife and my two kids – and the music stopped.
And I couldn’t understand why the music had stopped. And I turned to somebody – recognized that I was there. And for me it was so fantastic, that sentiment of complicity, of what was my life and my family life and a collective life of your country, represented in that wonderful park, and on Saturdays and Sundays, Chopin is played.
My heart is so close to your hearts. There was not only NATO; it was later on the European Union. I can tell you that I did my best, and it was not easy either. And then we have what Aleksander has said, our cooperation, very profound cooperation and long nights with snow in Kiev in which I think we did one of the most important things that has been done in order to change something that was not fair. And diplomatically – diplomatically without any violence – it was changed, and it was done repeated and rightly.
And that is a very fundamental thing that we – that we believe in diplomacy, we believe in how things have to be done, peacefully. This is the violence of Europe; it was done. Then history, I don’t know what it will say about that because it’s true that the Orange was not perfect at the end. But in any case, it was a fundamental, fundamental change that I am very proud to have been done in cooperation – so close cooperation with your country.
But we are not here to talk about the past. The past is beautiful because we look at it from the present. The present is very important to look at it, and then the future. Let me say a word about the present.
The present, talking to Polish friends, is very spectacular. You have done, in the present times, something that it was really – you didn’t believe it and many others didn’t believe that it would be true. In a very deep crisis, economic crisis, members of the European Union were doing what you are doing. It’s a fantastic example of what can be done.
You are overcoming the difficulties in a fantastic manner. You are giving a lesson to countries that were a part of the – I don’t want to call the old Europe because this is a terminology I detest, but to Europe, which is very, very impressive. So you have to be proud of what you have done, and I would like you to be really proud. And somebody, which is a friend of yours, tells you that you should be proud and you are not proud, you make a mistake.
You should be proud of what has been done. You are an example of what can be done in difficult circumstances, in the most difficult economic crisis that we have lived, how you have handled it, how you are overcoming the difficulties, and how you are being an example to many other countries in the European Union.
But if we look to the future, I think we are in a very profound difficulty because not only the economic crisis, there’s a very fundamental transfer of power in the world. The Atlantic rule is moving to the Pacific, and we have to learn and we have to get together, Americans and Europeans, how to maintain the values, the principles, the objectives that the Atlantic Alliance or the Trans-Atlantic Alliance has to define.
And I think that this is something in which Poland can play a very important role – a very important role because you are one of the most important countries of Europe. You are on the level of 40 million people in the big countries. You have the energy, you have the determination, you have the will to move on, and I want to tell you that together with other countries – and I would like to include mine, a country which is also under 40 million people, that we would like very much to, hand-in-hand, define what is going to be the future.
And we need to get together, to talk together – to talk together, the Europeans and the Americans, to see that the future is a future in which our values, our principles, our objectives are not changed because of the merging of reemerging powers that may have different values, different principles, different objectives.
We have to contribute to make a world in cooperation. I’m not asking about anything that isn’t cooperation. Cooperation is the word, but we have to defend also what we are, and I think that is the challenge that we have in front of us.
And I’d like to say that for me to get an award which has called for freedom, to have it here in this city with the tremendous history the city has; when I try to explain what Europe is, not many places come to my mind but this is a city that comes to my mind because it’s an example of what has been Europe – the changes in border.
I remember talking to one – probably somebody that Professor Davies will remember – who said, the borders go through my house like the wind or ride the wind. That has been Europe. This is not going to happen again. It’s not going to happen again. (Applause.) And we will continue being together and fighting together so that the wind will be the wind but the borders will not go with the wind. The people with state and all of us will be Europeans.
And together with our American friends, they will be able to maintain a world of stability – stability, peace – and maintain in some values, which are not very many but some of them are fundamental. And one of them is what it says there, that thing that says “freedom”. Freedom is a fundamental value. Without that, very few things can be done. It cannot be done economically, it cannot be done politically, it cannot be done socially, it cannot be done culturally.
And I was very happy today to have listened to Professor Davies that his long books, thick books, some of them, I have read thanks to a Polish friend, which is not with us today, Professor Buramik (ph), that taught me a lot in the many conversations that we had walking on the streets of Brussels.
We have here also the president of the European Parliament. It’s very impressive that we have today here with us the president of the parliament of Europe, which happens to be from Poland and happens to be a dignified person which is doing a very good job putting the parliament in the place – (inaudible) – parliament to be. (Applause.)
My dear friends, I’d like to tell you – not to be very long – I would like to spend hours talking to you because I love you – that the future – or let me put it in a different manner. The leaders of the world – political, economical, et cetera – the fundamental task they have to do is to civilize the future. We have the obligation to make the future civilized and to make it and control it, to make it, as soon as possible, present but civilized.
And I think this is our job, and I think together, the Americans and the Europeans will do it and the Polish people, the Polish leadership having a fundamental role in that job. My dear friends, I love you, and if it has not been noticed, let me say it again. I love you. (Applause.)
MR. BUZEK: Queridas Damas de Blanco. Dear Ladies in White, and chair, let me say at the very beginning, we should not change the atmosphere which is now. It is, of course, not atmosphere of joking. We should smile to each other because we know that in every one place all over the world, we can change the situation if we are tough enough, if you are ready as a trans-Atlantic community to help people fighting for freedom everywhere in the world, in our planet.
And let us have such a courage and patience. Then let me say, it’s a great pleasure and honor to hand over this prize to a representative of the Damas de Blanco. Four years ago, 2005, they were awarded of the Sakharov Prize in the European Parliament, and they still hope that one day, they will be able receive in person the prize.
And so let me say, a month ago, I met four Cuban dissidents who were recently released from prison. Let me say, it is something like touching the reality of our planet, and then you can feel all of us, in which part of our world we are.
Well, I am very glad an honored that I can share this award with President Kwaśniewski and Dr. Solana. Aleksander, we remember our countries as well some decades ago. Javier, in your country, it was a lot of troubles 40 or 50 years ago, but we know very well, it was still much better than the Cuba. There is no comparison.
So awarding Ladies in White and chair, giving them all the honor, we remember it is our obligation forever. Congratulations to you. All the best. We are keeping contact with you all the time. Thank you. (Applause.)
(The following remarks are delivered via translator.)
BLANCA REYES: (In Spanish.) Thank you very much for your support for us and all my ladies that struggle in Cuba. Okay, first of all, we want to thank the Atlantic Council and his president, Mr. Fred Kempe, for this award, as well as Pawel Świeboda of demosEUROPA for the event. Thank you as well to Ambassadors Lee Feinstein and Robert Kupiecki and of course, the mayor of this wonderful city.
We are very proud to share this moment with President Jerzy Buzek, President Aleksander Kwaśniewski and Mr. Javier Solana. They all have worked and worked very strongly for the achievement of freedom and liberty.
Distinguished friends, Ladies in White in Cuba, relatives of political prisoners in that country, come today to Poland with gratitude to receive the Atlantic Council’s Award for Freedom. We bring a close message of respect to our friends that recognize our struggle for almost 10 years to free our loved ones.
Laura Pollán, Berta Soler, Loida Valdes and other Cuban women bring a message of brotherhood and solidarity to Poland from Havana. We work every day for the liberation of the political prisoners of the group of 75 that still remain in prison in Cuba. We hope that these brave men who worked peacefully for democracy and for freedom of thought against the political regime that leads the country for more than 50 years can be released to their homes and their families.
Also, we have a message of gratitude that comes directly from Spain. In that country, we now have wives, sisters, mothers and daughters of about 40 political prisoners that have been sent into exile in Spain.
We feel happy to have them out of the dangers they faced in prison, but we feel very sad and upset to see that their only chance to be free is to leave the country they loved and where they were born and brought up after their sacrifice of more than seven years under the jails of the dictatorship.
Now, the challenge for the Ladies in White is to achieve freedom without conditions for the ones that want to remain in their own country with freedom of thought, expression and movement. As for the ones that had to leave, we do not agree with the fact of these men being released from jail under the condition of probationary license, because even if they can go back home, they remain under government’s will.
We also work on behalf of all citizens that have been condemned for promoting democratic changes. The Ladies in White in Havana will continue marching and praying until all of them are released. We all want to change Cuba’s penal laws that permit imprisonment under these conditions.
Our agenda is now trying to stop the Cuban government from sending people to jail illegally and condemning men and women as they did in 2003 in the so-called Black Spring. They were given sentences up to 20 years simply for speaking freely.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have in our memories the death of Orlando Zapata as well as the strength of his mother, Raina Luisa Tamayo, the acts of reputation against the Ladies in White, and of course, the long hunger strike of the journalist Guillermo Fariñas.
These fearless and courageous acts, the constant support of the Cuban exile and the strong solidarity of true democrats such as yourselves have helped to open Cuba’s jails and will also open the ones of those who remain. Without a doubt, your work on this cause will also help all of us to achieve the freedom.
Once again – (applause) – thank you very much for giving us a hand, for your support at this moment – (inaudible, audio interference) – and for giving us an important space with your solidarity and friendship are recognized around the world. Thank you. Thank you very much.
MR. KEMPE: In closing, let me just say, the triumphs of the past only have meaning if their lessons are applied to the challenges of the future. Blanca Reyes, thank you, bless you, and we hope that we will all see you at the fountains to celebrate and work forward to apply the lessons of the past to the future. God bless you all. (Applause.)