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Mr. Prime Minister, Voivod, Marshall, ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for inviting me to give this address here at the Castle of Pomorian Prince. It is, indeed, a great pleasure for me to be here. Looking out at this sea of faces, young students and citizens of Europe, I feel privileged to be asked to share some of my thoughts with you, the future of Europe.
Your country has had a turbulent past, with various nations claiming the right to rule over you. Indeed, as some of you may be aware, Szczecin – together with Pomerania – was under Danish rule for a short period from 1184 to 1227. A long time ago, I know, but these historical ties cannot be denied.
Today, Poland decides for itself – and can now choose to be an equal partner and take its place as a sovereign nation alongside other nations of a united Europe.
In fact, the process has already started. Later this morning I will be visiting the headquarters of the Polish-German-Danish trilateral corps “North-East”, a part of the NATO command structure and a tangible example of just how far we have come in terms of political and practical cooperation since the end of the cold war.
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History offered me the privilege of concluding the EU enlargement negotiations in Copenhagen in December.
The negotiations were tough at times. I am sure that you, Prime Minister Miller, can confirm that! Four tough rounds, but no knock out. It’s no secret that your Prime Minister is an able negotiator, especially when fighting for Poland. But I think we achieved a good result, a fair result for Poland and the best possible basis for Polish membership of the EU.
I fully understand this insistence on obtaining the best for Poland. For Poland has a long and dramatic history. The Polish people have endured inconceivable suffering and hardship. Throughout the centuries Poland has been exposed to the whims of powerful neighbours. For more than 100 years from 1795 to 1918 Poland did not even exist as an independent state. And it was the invasion of Poland in 1939 which led other nations to say “enough is enough” and served to trigger the start of the Second World War.
We fought to rid the world of tyranny but, tragically, Poland was once again destined to be subject to the will of others. For more than 40 years the Polish people were deprived of some of their fundamental rights, unable to determine the future and policies of their own country. But you are a proud people with a strong will. I think it is true to say that the process that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 started with the Solidarity movement here in Poland. Europe owes a lot to the courage of those brave men and women who once again took a stand against tyranny.
Today Poland is a true democracy. This is evident from the fact that this weekend’s historic decision concerning EU membership is entirely in the hands of the Polish people. It is my sincere hope that all those who can vote, will vote. Ask your parents and grandparents to play their part in shaping the future of Poland – the future of their children, their grandchildren and all generations to come.
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In 2003, Denmark celebrates 30 years of membership of the EU - 30 years of remarkable economic development. Of course, this has not been achieved solely because of our membership of the EU. But I am convinced that our membership has contributed substantially to the growth and development of our nation.
And Denmark is not alone in this. I am sure that the current generations of Spaniards, Portuguese and Irish are able to confirm that EU membership has boosted all their economies.
Today Europe is a huge single market with over 500 million consumers – presenting itself as a big opportunity also for Polish companies.
But today’s EU is about far more than just economic cooperation.
Terrorism, international crime and illegal immigration are problems that affect us all. Together, we can combat them. We all want to ensure a better environment and improved food quality. If we are united in our efforts to achieve these aims we will surely succeed.
The world around us is changing. Through cooperation the members of the EU can adapt to these changes and meet the challenges of the new world order.
But what of our national identities? To those who might fear that Polish sovereignty or national identity will be threatened by EU membership I would say the following:
When Denmark entered the EU, many sceptics proclaimed the end of sovereignty. Some still do. But I see no signs of this. Our national characteristics have not disappeared. Neither our welfare society nor our culture are endangered by the EU.
On the contrary - our society is enriched by the cooperation with other peoples of Europe. We can and should learn from them. But at the end of the day - Danes are still Danes - and Poles will still be Poles.
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Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me finally say that EU accession is not a magic answer to all the challenges Poland is facing. Reaping the fruits of EU membership also requires hard work. Reaping any harvest always does. Poland is perhaps more aware of this than many others. When I look at the huge amount of effort you have put into reforming your country I can only believe that Polish membership of this unique community will be of mutual benefit for Poland and for the EU.
In the EU we have found ways of tackling common problems, overcoming differences and sharing ideas. We have experienced two generations without war, on a continent that saw more bloodshed in the 20th century than any other part of the world. Polish EU membership will expand this zone of peace and democracy. Enlargement is our best guarantee for a Europe with political strength, with economic strength and the power to make a difference in a troublesome world.
The people of five accession countries have already made their decision. Malta, Slovenia, Hungary, Lithuania and Slovakia have all chosen to become members of the EU – most by an overwhelming majority.
And Denmark looks forward to welcoming Poland as a member of the EU on 1 May 2004. Together, we will work for a better future – together we shall build the new, strengthened Europe of tomorrow.
The chance is yours. The choice is yours.