Updated: 12 June 1999 NATO Speeches


of the North
at the level
of Heads
of State
and Government

23 Apr. 1999


by President of the Republic of Poland Mr. Aleksander Kwaniewski

Mr. President of the United States,
Mr. Secretary General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am deeply moved when speaking to you today. For the Polish people, NATO's existence has always been a sign of hope. The hope of saving freedom and democracy in a Europe divided until 1989. The hope that the Iron Curtain would not last forever. The hope that as soon as Poland was able to determine its fate, it would take part in the creation of a better future for itself and for the whole of the European continent.

Sixty years have passed since the outbreak of World War II, since the shelling of Gdansk and Warsaw, a time of hatred, contempt and holocaust. In that period we faced many doubts and challenges. Yet the dreams of our fathers and grandfathers have now come true. We have fulfilled the wishes and hopes of the Polish soldiers who fought on so many battlefields of the world, and we have realised the ideas and efforts of Solidarity and brave Poles who took a risk to fight for sovereignty and freedom.

We joined NATO in the fiftieth year of its existence. Our satisfaction is all the greater since NATO membership is a symbol of the definite end of the almost 300-year long period of misfortunes in Polish history. In the name of liberty, the very best of our people went under fire, on the scaffold, or were forced into exile, generation after generation. Today, this tragic tradition is but a memento for our children.

Over the past fifty years the North Atlantic Alliance has proven its effectiveness, its political and military umbrella has offered protection to the member states. It has opened an opportunity for undisturbed development and strengthening co-operation and solidarity. All of us on both sides of the Atlantic still need the Alliance. Also today, after the fall of the bipolar world order, after the collapse of communism and the end of the Cold War, NATO and the American presence in Europe stabilise the Euro-Atlantic area. They contribute to the consolidation of our democracies.

The enlargement of the Alliance to include Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary has expanded the security zone in Europe. It is a dream of the Polish people for this area to keep expanding. Our European nations, Poland's Partners and friends, must be allowed to enjoy the benefit of stable and secure development. The doors to NATO must stay open.

Ladies and Gentlemen, our common celebration today is overshadowed by tragic events in Kosovo. The Balkan events have made us all realise that NATO membership does not only bring a feeling of comfort, it is also about shared responsibility. Faced with a humanitarian catastrophe, the Alliance has been forced to make a difficult decision to launch air strikes. This decision proves that NATO countries have remained true to the everlasting and fundamental values of the North Atlantic Treaty, signed fifty years ago.

It is not only the common interests which contribute to the strength of the Alliance. Our greatest asset lies in our values: freedom, democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law. Our will and determination to defend them is the greatest source of optimism for the future. In the defence of these values, Poland will not fail.

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