Closing remarks of Alexander Kwasniewski, President of Poland (1995-2005), Chairman of the Board of the Yalta European Strategy (YES) at the 9th Yalta Annual Meeting on September 15, 2012
Dear friends, don’t worry, it will not be very long speech, only some remarks and some greetings. First of all, I’d like to say that I am almost professional participant of various international conferences, and of course, - may be, it’s not good if Chairman of the Board is speaking such words, - but Sergiy Tihipko some seconds earlier said more or less the same: we’re participating and during the last two days we’ve participated in one of, and, maybe, really the best international conference in the world. And that is really very, very true. If you see the list of speakers, if you see the topics, if you see the atmosphere, if you see the hospitality of our host, if you see the place, historical place of Livadia Palace - all these elements created such highest quality of our meeting in intellectual sense, in political sense, in organizational sense, and that is something that, for sure, we’ll remember.
Second, what, I think, is really just heavyweight of our conference, is that we discuss not only about such important and very hard problems as Ukraine today or Ukraine before the election, but these days we discussed about the strategy, about general problems of mankind, of our continent. We are in the time of the change. And of course I am sure that was nice, very funny beginning of our conference to discuss about this forecast of Maya that 2012 can be the year of the end of the world. Of course, I am absolutely optimistic that it’s not a real danger for us, but the real problem for us is this change, which is to some extent visible and predictable, but in many elements is totally unpredictable. And these days we discussed about the future of new technologies, the impact of new technologies onto our life, about medicine, about new architecture of the world, new civilization and political centers of the world. This picture of the world is changing, and we are the part of this debate, very wide, world debate, world-wide debate about challenges, the future and the possibilities. And this debate has very special element: we have a lot of questions, millions of questions, and we have only some answers, some responses. And that is why such conference, especially so well-organized, with such high intellectual level, is useful for us, important for all of us, and I am sure the next year we'll continue this Annual Meeting of Yalta European Strategy.
Two short remarks: and the first - about Europe. I fully agree with last words of Tihipko and statement of Carl Bildt here in this room. Of course, today’s discussion about Europe, and European further enlargement, and about Ukraine as the next member or next associated partner of the European Union is extremely complicated. We are, first of all, discussing the crisis, the Eurozone, Greece, and Portugal and so on. But, actually after this crisis, first of all, Europe will survive and European integration will survive. And this is really the most important political project maybe in the history of the civilization. If you want to compare European integration, you compare this integration only with the idea of the founding fathers of the United States to create the state in the North America. I am sure that it would be something impossible and absolutely unbelievable to miss this greatest opportunity to integrate Europe further, to integrate Europe deeper and, at the end of the day, to have Europe as really one of the strongest, most important players in the world in the next decades.
If you want the next argument, may be not so well-known, why Europe can be such a strong player in this architecture of the world in the next decades, I’ll give you the freshest one. Europe has the potential: if you look at the list of classification of medals in the Olympics, the first is the Unites States, the second - China, and the third - Great Britain. But if you count only gold medals of all 27 members of the European Union, we have more than 80 golden medals. We are much better than China, much better than the United States, and it means that Europe still has an unbelievable potential. That is important to know and to use it in the next years.
So, why I am speaking about it? Because, if you are discussing Ukraine, this alternative, what is best or what is better: to go to the West, or to go to the East, my answer is very simple: of course, the European Union has good future. We’ll overcome the crisis, and can propose for you much more what you need than other forms of integration. One day, even if Ukraine would be a member of the Eurasian zone, Eurasian Union with Kazakhstan, with Belarus, with Russia, you will have same problems with monetization, which we have now, and you will go together to ask the European Union for support to modernize your countries. You will ask us about our experience how we have solved social problems, healthcare problems and all these problems, which are part of not only our challenges or troubles; these problems are part of the European heritage. And today even China, Russia, India and Brazil, they all will ask us, Europeans, what to do with healthcare system. It’s not excellent in Europe, but it is much more developed and better than in the other parts of the world. And I can name a lot of such elements of really strong deep experience of Europe and the European Union.
This is our know-how, which we can offer Ukraine, if you want to modernize your country, if you want to be really part of this family, which has troubles now, problems now, but will exist in the future and will play important role all over the world.
And second and last remark is this comparison, which is interesting: can Ukraine be like Poland, or can it be even better than Poland. Minister Poroshenko was so kind to say that, of course, Ukraine will be better than Poland, - I wish you, of course, to be better than Poland. But, if you want to understand how it is possible to be at least as good as Poland, and this way of transition and this way of reforms, it is necessary to understand, what was the real advantage of my country.
The first, in the beginning of our transition, we had very clear goals. The first was, for security reasons, NATO, the second one was the European Union. As long as you will not define by consensus, political consensus that, for example, European integration is your goal, it will be very difficult to organize common effort and to reach this goal. Because, that is important to say: yes, we want to be. We don’t speak about schedule; we don’t speak about years; that will take time. But we should have the goal. Poland had these two goals.
Second, we organized for these goals really all-parties’ support. We had different governments, in the first part of the Polish transition, we had a lot of governments, too many governments. But each government was working on the same direction. Of course, one additional element: for ten years Poland had extremely good president, but that is, maybe, a different, different story.
And the last point in this Polish experience. Sometimes I hear in Yalta: well, you want to teach us, and you speak about your values and your standards. And we have our own dignity, we have our experience and we don’t need such teachers, such lectures, such advice and everything and everything. OK, I understand, but that is a little bit risky approach. What does it mean to accept European standards? It means that we accept something, what was an experience, what was proved, what was created…- systems in Europe, systems not of conflicts and war, but systems of democracy, protection of human rights, protection of minorities, competitive economy, state of law, etc. That is really how you can jump forward because of using all these standards. Because, if you want to discuss about democracy in Ukrainian style, first of all, it will take a lot of time; but finally, result of so-called Ukrainian model of democracy is danger for you and for us, for all of us. It's better to accept the European model of democracy, because we know what this model means. I think, I understand this sensitivity, understand this special feeling of national dignity, especially in the country, which in its very, very long thousands’ years of history had only in very short periods its own independent state. I understand and I respect it. But please look that accepting these European standards or European models and European experience you can go forward faster, you can avoid wasting time, which in our history happened some decades earlier, and to be closer to us or as good as Poland is now and even better.
For Poland to be quite well-organized European country – not excellent, not the best, but quite well-organized country – took twenty years. Now, this year, in Ukraine you have twenty-two years of independence, and unfortunately, in Ukraine we have the beginning of this period of tensions similar to the one there was in the middle of second term of President Leonid Kuchma – 2002. Now we have 2012, we have some kind of cold civil war. It was a conflict between President, Prime Minister, opposition, ruling party, Victor versus Victor, Victor versus Yulia, Yulia versus Victor, Victor versus Yulia etc... I know all these stories, because I was part of these conflicts – not as animator, but as a fireman who was asked to help in these situations. So, my advice is: it is necessary this very long, ten-year cold civil war to finish. I hope that everything what we have now, that after this election you will understand this necessity of the political situation, necessity of the economical situation, you will be ready to cooperate, to find consensus, and the main role in this consensus, consensus of politics, is of course on the side of the ruling forces. That is not the main role of opposition. Because opposition has no instruments. But after the election I expect, frankly speaking, important, very gorgeous gestures of the President, of the new Prime Minister, of the new government. Because, I think, in this time it’s absolutely needed, if you want to overcome the problems which you have here, and many of these problems are the result of Ukrainian politics - not of the global crisis, not of the European crisis or Eurozone crisis. That is your job and your responsibility.
Dear friends, I think we are tired and, of course, we have a chance to continue our discussion about the future of Ukraine during a nice dinner, which is in front of us. Finally, I would like to thank, first of all, all of you, participants of our Annual Meeting, speakers. You know that we had with us students, the Ukrainian students. And I very much appreciate that they participated in our conference. Because maybe this is the next generation of Ukrainian politicians, and they get here a good lesson of political thinking. I would like to thank my fellow Board members, and especially those who are still with me here: Mario David, Jean Pierre Saltiel, Sasha Rahr. This is your success also. I would like to thank the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, especially the leading persons in this team – please give a round of applause for Yulia Chebotareva and Thomas Weihe. Many thanks for Public Relations Team with Dennis Kazvan – Dennis, thanks a lot, especially for your sense of humour. And I have a list, that is a new tradition that is necessary, this is my privilege to thank the sponsors of our conference – the special partner DTEK, and partners Alfa Bank Ukraine, International Renaissance Foundation, ONUR company, Shell and Visa. And I think that is good to applaud these companies. I want to thank Yalta team and its director Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze . Ivanna, thank you, great job, great job. I tell you, I was a journalist in my life and I understand that among us are many journalists, now even these journalists are too many in the world. But to be an excellent, a fantastic and outspoken journalist is not easy, and we had these days with us one of the best journalists in the world - Chrystia Freeland. Thank you very much for your job! I appreciate very much her knowledge, her determination, her charisma and tough hands when it was necessary. Thanks to you, Chrystia! And finally, last but not least. Dear friends, I think it is fantastic when on our way we can meet a very special, a very unique person. And I think this man is the best combination of business success, very good taste, fantastic feeling of politics and such a very strong responsibility of his own country, of the future of his own country. I am speaking, of course, about the founder of the Foundation and our host during these days in Yalta – Victor Pinchuk. Victor, thank you, Victor, and really it is a privilege for all of us that we met you, because it was by chance, but it was fantastic. It’s really one of the best things that happened in our life, and we are so grateful to you.
Dear friends, before I will invite you to the next meeting, I want to say that after these closing remarks we’ll have a short movie. But before that I want to inform you that this Ninth Annual Meeting of Yalta European Strategy is finished, is closed, and I invite all of you and new guests to the next Tenth Annual Meeting of YES next year in Yalta. And I promise, and I expect that it will be after the elections, but don't worry about topics, don't worry about problems, don't worry about domestic Ukrainian situation. We’ll have a lot to discuss, we’ll have a lot to think of. This for sure is being decided even now, one year before the next meeting. Thanks a lot, and all the best to you!
Chairman of the Board of the Yalta European Strategy,
President of Poland (1995 – 2005)