Address by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen
at the special North Atlantic Council meeting to honour the victims of the Polish air crash
Members of the Council,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have gathered today to commemorate the tragic plane crash in Russia last Saturday, which resulted in the death of Lech Kaczynski, the President of Poland, of his wife Mrs. Maria Kaczynska, and a wide-cross section of leading Polish officials and civilians. This is a tragedy which has resonated not just in Poland, but throughout the Alliance as a whole. Our very deepest condolences go out to the families and loved ones of those who have died, and all the people of Poland at this time of national mourning.
Throughout his life, Lech Kaczynski was a true Polish patriot. He was a strong believer in the values and principles that our NATO Alliance has always stood for: freedom, democracy, solidarity. Lech Kaczynski was present at the creation of the “Solidarity” trade union, which played such a crucial role in ending the Cold War and enabled Poland to regain its independence and the freedom to decide its own future. And later, as President of Poland, he was instrumental in transforming his country into the staunch NATO Ally that we have all come to know, and to respect.
Aujourd'hui, la Pologne est vraiment au coeur de l'OTAN. Des soldats polonais participent, aux côtés de leurs homologues d'autres pays de l'OTAN, à plusieurs des missions et opérations les plus exigeantes de l'Alliance. La Pologne joue aussi un rôle politique qui convient à un pays de sa taille et de sa stature, travaillant sans relâche à forger la forte solidarité transatlantique qui est indispensable pour relever les défis actuels et futurs.
Many senior political and military representatives of that active and engaged Poland died together with their President last Saturday. Hardworking, committed people, who many of us have come to know and work together with over the past few years; and who would have contributed so much more to this Alliance had their lives not been cut so tragically short. They, as well, will be sorely missed – both at a personal and a professional level.
Our thoughts are very much with their families and loved ones today.
Solidarity is a key word in Poland’s recent history. Solidarity is what NATO has always been about. At this time of great sorrow for Poland and its people, it is important that they now understand that the Alliance stands side by side with them, in Solidarity. Now at this saddest moment, but also as they move ahead and seek to honour the memory of so many fine Poles who have worked for the greater security, not just of their country, but also of the Alliance.
I will now ask the Dean of the NAC, Ambassador Poulsen-Hansen, followed by the Chairman of the Military Committee and Ambassador Winid to say a few words. This will then be followed by a minute of silence to honour the victims of the accident.