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Monday, 22 June 2009
Page: 6814


Mr HAYES (7:35 PM) —I want to start by thanking the member for Fisher for bringing forward this motion. Having been adversely affected by two world wars and fighting and struggling for the last 60 years, it is good to see Poland developing as a country in the way it is at the moment. Poland suffered for 40 years under a communist regime and prior to that it was, as we all know, invaded by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. It is important to note the spirit of the Polish people. The Polish people in about 1980 brought about the formation of the independent trade union Solidarity, which became the pinnacle body in establishing democracy in Poland. Lech Walesa, the leader of Solidarity, went on to become the first elected President of Poland. They are the things that we should be celebrating today. This reform was not something that just happened by chance; it was designed by the Polish people themselves. This reform movement that ended communism in eastern Europe started in Poland.

Since the end of communism Polish democracy has developed rapidly, despite various difficulties. In 1991, as part of its involvement with the European Union, Poland was one of the first to sign its agreement with Hungary, making a significant change from a communist state involved in a determined economy to an open, free market economy—and that has continued. Thanks to those pioneers, since 2001, 85 per cent of the Polish trade is on a bilateral basis. In 1999 we saw Poland make attempts in terms of its involvement with the Western Europe allies in becoming a valued, strategic partner of NATO. In 2003 the Polish people supported the US-led military intervention in Iraq and became one of the largest European state unions by 2004.

Unfortunately, the Polish people feel that a lot of their more recent history has gone unnoticed. That is why in 2009 they embarked on having a national celebration of the Polish 20-year anniversary since their first postwar elected government. At the celebration Lech Walesa said:

We managed to end an era of divisions, mistakes and confrontation. No other generation had a chance to try to achieve that.

I think that was very pertinent. The first Polish Prime Minister, Mr Mazowiecki, said:

Twenty years ago, what seemed impossible became possible.

These are not things in our distant past; they are things in our very, very recent past—and these are things that we should be celebrating. I think it is appropriate at this particular point in time that we remember the struggles that the Polish people endured to deliver a free and open society—a society which is now one of Europe’s leading economies.

The date 4 June 1989 marked a decisive victory for democracy in Poland and, ultimately, across eastern Europe. Regrettably, 4 June 1989 also marked the terrible atrocities and sacrifice of Tiananmen Square, when China crushed the peaceful pro-democracy protest. We have a duty to bring the joy of freedom and democracy to others and this means supporting the courageous efforts of individuals, notably Aung San Suu Kyi and her battles as Burmese opposition leader. I also think this anniversary of the Polish liberalisation is an opportunity to send a sign of solidarity to nations struggling for freedom, including North Korea, Cuba, Iran and Burma.