His Excellency, Tadeusz Diem Ambassador to Canada for the Republic of Poland
POLAND AND THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
Chairman: Julie Hannaford, President, The Empire Club of Canada
Head Table Guests
William Duncan, Director, The Empire Club of Canada; The Rev. Kim Beard, Rector, Christ Church, Brampton and a Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Roger Wright, President, Menasco Aerospace Coltec Industries; Mrs. Ada Diem, Wife of Ambassador Diem; Bernard Wilson, FCA, Past Chairman and Governor, Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Partner, Price Waterhouse; Gareth Seltzer, Vice-President, Private Banking, Guardian Capital Advisors and a Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Amanda Leduc, OAC Student, Central Technical School; Edward S. Jurus, President and General Manager, Kodak Canada Inc.; and John Garbin, Vice-President, Royal Building Systems, Royal Group Technologies.
Introduction by Julie Hannaford
It is now axiomatic to observe that the face of Central Europe is transforming. What is less well known is the transformation on the horizon for Eastern Europe.
The encounter with democracy and the concomitant changes in economic policy, popular governance, and global attitude shall surely define the end of the 20th century not only for Central and Eastern Europe, as the signal events not only within Central and Eastern Europe, but for North America, as we align ourselves with a globalised economy.
His Excellency Tadeusz Diem is a special guest today, not because he is coming to the end of his term as the first Ambassador from Poland since its rebirth as a free and independent state in 1992, but because he has been a part of the transformation in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as a witness to it.
He is an academic, a thinker, a politician, a fighter for freedom and a statesman.
In 1963, he began his professional career at the Warsaw University of Technology carrying out responsibilities as head of one of their research teams. He holds a Doctorate in technical sciences and is a specialist in the fields of mathematics and the chemistry of polymers and biopolymers. He is the author of numerous scientific papers, and the developer and holder of more than 50 patents. He has held posts as researcher and as a visiting professor at the University of Akron, at Marquette University and Lehigh University.
His political career began with his membership in Solidarity, in September, 1980, and as the organiser and member of the board of Mazowsze Region. He was the delegate for the First Congress of Solidarity, and Chairman of the Resolution Commission. He was interned on December 13, 1981 in internment camps.
In October, 1989, Tadeusz Diem was appointed Deputy Minister of Education. He was also the President of the Polish Committee of the Mitterand Foundation.
Tadeusz Diem is now coming to the end of his term as Ambassador for the Republic of Poland to Canada. His insights about Poland, as well as Central and Eastern Europe at the turn of the 20th century, are now informed by perspective he has gained during his term as Ambassador to Canada. It is therefore with great pleasure that 1 ask you to welcome to The Empire Club of Canada, His Excellency Tadeusz Diem, and in so doing to thank him for his exemplary, courageous service.
Madame President, Rev. Father, ladies and gentlemen, friends and compatriots:
I wish to express my great pleasure at having been invited by The Empire Club to share with you a few observations regarding the latest developments in Central Europe from Poland's perspective.
As was mentioned by Madam Chair I am nearing the end of my mission as the Ambassador for the Republic of Poland to Ottawa and will soon be returning to my country, so these remarks reflect also the collaboration with the institutions and people of Canada.
The 20th century is coming to a close and as such, talking about the 21st is not idly engaging in futurism. It is in fact dealing with an imminent reality. I wish to inject a note of optimism into what I will say today regarding Poland.
Now why would I be optimistic about a country that has been so severely tested and tried by history and its neighbours over the past 1,000 years? Why? Because we have survived as a nation and because we started the change and transformation process in Central Europe. The birth of "Solidarity" and the vision of Lech Walesa, the former President of Poland and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, started a chain reaction of which we are justly proud. Indeed, the processes which started in Gdansk in 1980 revolutionised that part of the globe, restoring democracy to several countries of Central and Eastern Europe. This vision and determination to remain an independent and democratic country is what will carry us confidently into the 21st century. We have a millennial history, but that is our past.
What about the future?
Over the last seven years we have remodelled our country. Poland is now a democratic state in the true meaning of the word. The legal framework and all institutions of a democracy are in place. We have an elected Lower House and Senate and our local municipal government is also elected. The final stage of our transformation will be the ratification of our draft constitution by a nationwide referendum to be held later his month. Similar but different transformations have occurred in the Czech
Republic, the Slovak Republic, Hungary and others. They too have become democratic states, so we can say that this first stage of the process is over.
The 90s, the last decade of the 20th century gave birth to a new Central Europe. So what does the future promise for Poland in this context?
Let's begin with the economy, the foundation of a free and competitive society. The economy of Poland was the fastest-growing economy in Europe for four consecutive years. Our GNP growth, for instance, was seven per cent in 1996. I could mention that industrial production grew by 12.9 per cent when the total deficit we inherited from the communist system was reduced to 57 per cent of our GNP. The engine of this rebirth is a young highly motivated population with high intellectual potential, a potential that grew out of our strong education tradition, a potential we are willing to share with others since we are the youngest society in Europe.
Now as we look to the new millennium we have to ask ourselves: "Where is Central Europe going?" Poland and the other Central European nations have clearly opted for integration with the western democracies. We share many values that stem from our common Christian heritage and democratic behaviour. The integration process is well on its way. Poland's clear intention is to become a full member of the North Atlantic Alliance and the European Union. This is our aim; this is our society's desire and our challenge.
Our expectations are high and generally optimistic in this world full of frustration and pessimism. We laid a solid foundation for our democracy and we are able to fulfill all obligations and requirements to join these transatlantic international institutions.
How do our aspirations regarding western integration impact on our relations with our eastern neighbours? I can truly say that with regard to the Russian Federation and the Ukraine, both very important countries, our relations are based on a mutual understanding, a good neighbour policy of friendship and relations on an equal basis. Our relations with the Baltic States and Lithuania in particular, our friend for over five centuries, are of special importance to us.
Our moves towards western integration and our good relations with our friends to the East are our priorities and aims.
While the rebirth of Central Europe was the most important phenomenon in the last decade of the 20th century, I strongly believe that the first decade of the 21st century will see the rebirth and transformation of Eastern Europe. We as democracies have to ask ourselves: "What are our obligations towards our friends east of Poland who are rebuilding their economies and moving towards democracy?" This implies change and changes are always difficult.
Central Europe is not expecting any threat from any direction. But Central Europe is the security vacuum zone. In order to prevent any future situations or temptations we are seeking full membership in NATO. We want to become a member of the Alliance for the very same reasons that Canada and 15 other states have joined. Our future security depends on it. Poland because of its geographical location has been severely scarred over the centuries. We all remember the destruction and suffering caused by the Second World War, so I will not elaborate on the consequences of that war for Poland. It is our obligation, and we must seize the opportunity to prevent a similar catastrophe in future.
So our expectations are that this year in Madrid NATO will invite Poland along with several other Central European states to begin negotiating the terms of accession. We believe those negotiations will be concluded successfully and by April 4, 1999, the 50th anniversary of the establishment of this vital organisation, we will be full-fledged members of the Alliance.
From the Polish perspective it is very fortunate that North America including Canada are involved in this partnership. Europe cannot manage all of the remaining problems by herself. This transatlantic link is crucial not only for European security but for the rest of the world as well. Poland which is probably the most pro-American country in the world does understand the importance of this link.
Co-operation is crucial within the context of European and world security. No country can deny the transformations occurring in Poland and no country has veto power on Poland's legitimate desire and right to built our own security.
Now we should look at the role of the western democracies in this transformation process. Your assistance during the early stages was of great help and was much appreciated, but now the times call not for direct help but for co-operation and openness.
Poland's trade with EU is not marginal. It is at present 65 per cent. If Europe was more open to our products we could successfully compete in this market. Total foreign investment in Poland is growing rapidly. Investors coming to Poland find a legal framework that welcomes foreign capital and allows for full transfer of profits, a highly skilled labour force from tradesmen to PhDs, and friendly open people wanting to co-operate. This is what you can expect from us.
When referring to collaboration I do not mean direct help. I see instead a form of partnership with Poland and Central Europe to undertake joint projects to support the development efforts of Eastern Europe.
Unfortunately we do have to admit that Eastern Europe is facing several major national internal and external problems at this time. There is room however for a special form of co-operation that should exist between the western democracies and Central Europe which could flow to Eastern Europe.
Finally let me deal with Canada and Canada's involvement. Canada is a unique country in the world. It is the best country in the world, a country which was never an oppressor but one to always offer help. Canadian-Polish friendship goes back 130 years when the first Polish settlers came to Ontario. I think Poles can legitimately claim that they made a great contribution to the building of your beautiful country. I would like to mention that the Canadian-Polish community is one of the best and an excellent representative of polish traditions and intellectual life.
As well Poland and Canada have served together on various peace-keeping missions throughout the world and are presently together in Bosnia. Canada and the Central European countries are playing an important role in the vital process of restoration of peace.
Canada is a country where all cultures live in harmony. Canada's cultural and political environment has attracted immigrants from all over the world and this has created a special quality of life that has been recognised by the United Nations.
We wish you well in all your endeavours. I strongly believe that Canada and Central Europe must extend their horizons a little further to the East.
Let me conclude by thanking Canada for its contributions to the process of transformation in Poland. Thank you for broadening and strengthening the scope of our relations and let me express our gratitude for understanding and supporting Poland's goal of integration. The Prime Minister's statement that there is a moral obligation to help Poland and other European countries to join NATO has special meaning and value for us and we thank him for that.
With your permission Madame Chair I think it would be appropriate for me to say a few words in my mother tongue. (Mr. Diem then made a few remarks in Polish.) Thank you and good bye.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Gareth Seltzer, Vice-President, Private Banking, Guardian Capital Advisors and a Director, The Empire Club of Canada.