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One for All
And all for one. Poland's Representative to NATO and the Western European Union (WEU) outlines his views on Poland's place in the world on the eve of her 1999 accession into the alliance.

In March 1999, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary become members of NATO. Just 10 or so years ago, this statement might have seemed pure fantasy. Today, it expresses a foregone political decisions. It testifies to the profound changes that have taken place in Europe, especially Central Europe.

Poland's "five minutes" in the 20th century

For Poles, entry into NATO takes place on the 10th anniversary of the Round Table talks. Ten years ago, a great political transformation began in Poland. It led to the construction of a democratic state, a healthy economy and a sovereign foreign policy. The invitation to the alliance is not only recognition of the internal changes made, but also a step that radically changes Poland's international position.

At the start of the century, Poland was missing from the political map of Europe. A fight for independence was in progress. The 1920s and '30s marked the reconstruction of the statehood regained after World War I. This great national effort was disrupted by the tragedy of World War II, followed by half a century of restricted freedoms and an artificial economy. In all, the 20th century has been " a search for freedom" for Poles. The last decade of the century can be considered compensation for those difficult years. In 1989 the country recovered its independence. Admission into the powerful alliance of the democratic and most developed states in 1999 safeguard's and protects Poland's independence and creates a new setting for the operation of the Polish state.

Joining NATO is a strategic decision for Poland which meets with general public support. It stems from a sense of values shared with NATO member states and a shared outlook on how to ensure security in Europe. It is linked with a desire to erase those lines of division which in the past pushed Poland and all of Central Europe to peripheries of European politics and economics and to the margin of Western political interest.

Overcoming the division of Europe

The admission of Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary to NATO is also a major step on the road toward overcoming the historic division of Europe. In fact, the gradual expansion of existing Western European institutions and their developing cooperation with Russia seems to be the only practical road toward building European unity. The division is not only a matter of the last few decades. It has existed for much longer.

For centuries, Central European nations were deprived of the right to self- determination. They were treated instrumentally, forgotten and abandoned by Western democracies. However, sacrificing Prague and Gdansk did not protect Paris and London. The division of Europe after World War I did not produce a lasting peace, but a threat of a nuclear disaster for all of Europe. The inclusion of Central Europe into NATO expresses the belief that European security should mean security of this part of the continent, as well. It means the recognition of new voice of Central Europe.

Poland in the alliance

History does not end for Poland in March 1999. Poland has never looked at its membership in NATO as the single and final goal of Polish foreign policy. NATO membership is part of a larger push to create optimal conditions for Poland's development and permanent security guarantees for all European nations. At the same time, Poland is aware that being a member of NATO also involves taking on part of the alliance's responsibility and the obligation to actively contribute to the implementation of its tasks.

Poland is bringing with it major military capacity to the alliance. This should help NATO maintain its constant readiness to deter aggression. The Polish government is aware that Poland's armed forces require far-reaching modernization. A plan for their development has been prepared. Its implementation should lead to a reduction in the number of troops ( to about 180,000 ), but at the same time they will become more mobile and better equipped. This will improve their interoperability with the forces of other NATO countries and increase Poland's contribution to both common defense and other missions undertaken by the organization. Poland is ready to carry out NATO tasks in the prevention and solution of conflicts. Poland is one of the largest contributors to international peacekeeping forces. The participation of about 30.000 Polish troops in 29 peacekeeping operations and a number of missions to date confirm Poland's strong sense of international solidarity expected by the alliance as an essential feature in the implementation of such projects. The extensive military experience gained by Poles in peacekeeping operations is accompanied by political experience from the solving of conflicts, including the period when Poland led the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 1998.

Poland wants to contribute to NATO 's activities for stability in the region. The development of friendly relations and constructive cooperation with all of its neighbors has remained one of the priorities of Polish foreign policy over the past 10 years. Poland has built partnership relations with nations with which it shared a difficult past including the Germans, Ukrainians and Lithuanians. Poland has contributed in a major way to the construction of regional links and regional cooperation.

Poland's achievements in regional policy spoke for its candidacy to NATO membership. At the moment, Poland wants to continue this policy with its NATO allies for the implementation of shared objectives. Poland is aware of the fact that it will be a valuable partner- not as an eastern bastion of the alliance but as a participant and co-creator of internal dialogue and cooperation with all the countries in the region. Poland is ready to share its experience from participation in the PfP program in the transformation and modernization of the armed forces and the development of ties with NATO countries.

Poland has no intention of creating new divisions. Just the reserve, it wants to help transfer to the East those values and principles which have brought the West success and civilization progress; it wants to help open Western structures to all those who want to join them and meet the appropriate criteria.

The above text appeared originally on the webpage of the Polish Embassy in Bucharest




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