September 24, 2013
Lech Walesa has called for Poland to unite with Germany to form one European state, despite the bloody history between the two countries.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner and former Polish president, whose Solidarity trade union played a key role in bringing an end to the Cold War, said the world had changed and needed new ways of organising itself.
“We need to expand economic and defence co-operation and other structures to create one state from Poland and Germany in Europe,” he said.
Speaking to Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency, Mr Walesa, 69, said national boundaries were not as relevant as they once were.
“We have travelled so far in our technical advancements that we are no longer located in our own countries,” he said, adding that this required changes to geographical structures, the economy and democracy.
Although few Poles have forgotten Germany’s invasion and brutal occupation of Poland in 1939, history should not be an obstacle to unity, Mr Walesa said. “After the war, Germany fully confessed to all its dirty tricks,” he said. “It’s necessary to is draw a line under the past, even if people did something evil. Until we do, wounds won’t heal.”
Mr Walesa’s calls for Polish-German unity exceed his previous support for closer European solidarity. At the forefront of his country’s campaign to wrest itself from the Soviet communist bloc, the former dockyard electrician later supported Poland’s membership of the EU in 2004. He has since advocated ever-closer ties between European states, even saying that he would one day, perhaps, be “president of a United States of Europe”.
“At the moment different ways of doing things and different systems hold us back but gradually everything will align and states will become like Lego blocks,” he said in the Itar-Tass interview.
He suggested that current international systems were now defunct, saying the United Nations and Nato were the “ideas of an old era” and “badly organised”.
The comments on German-Polish unification will further enhance the former Polish president’s reputation for making frank and sometimes unorthodox remarks. Long retired from active politics but still sporting his trademark moustache, Mr Walesa makes regular appearances on the news and never shies away from giving his opinion.
But not all take his words seriously. “This is one of Lech Walesa’s exotic ideas,” said Jozef Oleksy, a former Polish prime minister. “He has the role of someone who stimulates ideas, sometimes annoying ideas, but I don’t attach much importance to this one.
“You need a strategy of close co-operation between two countries because this is necessary and beneficial, but two states becoming one country is something else.”
While Mr Walesa said Poland could bury the hatchet with Germany, the situation was different with Russia, the other great historical foe of the Poles. He urged Moscow to follow the German example and atone for its sins committed against Poland in order to lay the foundations of a good relationship.
“We are too slow in solving our problems and reaching an understanding,” he said. “We must aim to make our relations as smooth as possible, since we are fated to be neighbours.”