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The Warsaw Voice » Other » February 6, 2008
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It's All About Trust, Stupid
February 6, 2008   
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Prime Minister Donald Tusk outlines his priorities in government to Andrzej Jonas.

What is your view on the most important dilemma of democracy: the relationship between the state and the citizens? What is your formula for solving the problem of the balance of power between the government and society?

It's not so much a formula as my deeply rooted belief in the need for an equilibrium between what belongs to the realm of government and what constitutes society. The vision of a state that wants to be omnipresent, wanting to control everything and everyone, is alien to me. That would be a state always aiming to conquer the institutions that constitute the public sphere. In such a case, democratic practice is limited to elections, which take place once every several years. Thus, the diversity and richness of the civic world disappears, all the different interests and ideas on how to live. A rigid hierarchy reigns supreme in such a state-everyone needs to know where their place is, while those in power treat every natural conflict as a threat to everybody. I am especially sickened by the hypocrisy of such government, the duplicity of its good intentions: "We have taken on the duty of governing and the responsibility of protecting you, the lowly, from both domestic and external enemies, but first and foremost from yourselves." The ideal of those in power is then a passive citizen, or perhaps one should say-a subject who treats the state as a patron and guardian.

To me the choice is clear. I have spoken out for many years in favor of a limited but strong state. Limited means a state that follows the principle of subsidiarity, promoting citizens' self-government, autonomy and initiative. Strong means a state that effectively protects our rights and the principle of equal opportunities; next, it guards public order and our security, and finally-it fulfills all the various tasks related to our heritage and concern for the community's future.

As we remember, particularly over the past decade, equal opportunities and equality before the law have often changed into evident social inequality, with some being privileged over others. We are, however, condemned to neither postcommunism-and corruption wherever citizens come into contact with the state-nor the irresponsible radicalism of the people who governed the country for the past two years, with their hollow promises of fixing the state.

Today Poland needs an internal national equilibrium. If we want to have a Poland based on freedom and solidarity, on respect for tradition and the rule of law, we cannot believe even for a moment that it can resist the enemies of those values by force of the justness of its principles alone. Poland needs, as it has in the past, support from the virtues of its citizens. Therefore we have to find in ourselves all that is good and noble, and jointly take up any challenges the future holds for us.

Some world leaders like to put mottoes above their desks, like "The economy, stupid." What would your motto be if you were to put one up?

First of all, trust. There is no objective more important for my government than rebuilding the capital of public trust. Over the past two years we have witnessed and participated in a political conflict whose intensity was nothing like earlier disputes. It has not only revealed different identities, models of patriotism, religiousness and remembrance. The violence of the conflict has also augmented the erosion of trust. Those in power-I think intentionally-pitted certain professional groups against others, the rich against the poor, multiplied enemies and antagonized different communities. Conflict became a method of government. Consequently, new divisions were added to earlier ones. We must not forget, after all, that we live in a society shaken by violent changes after 1945. In addition, we have been changing in economic and cultural terms since 1989. The postcommunist division is becoming a thing of the past, but the last two years have revealed the different visions of public order symbolized by the Law and Justice (PiS) party and the Civic Platform (PO). This means we are still searching for the formula of our future organization. Moreover, I am under the impression today that everybody is fighting for recognition of their arguments, without any thought to the arguments of others. Meanwhile, it is hard to reach an agreement in a world lacking in trust. Internal divisions cannot be weakened without trust, nor a political community rebuilt. So, I repeat: first of all, trust. Rebuilding it is Poland's raison d'état today.

What should Poland's policies be towards its neighbors, Europe as a whole and the world? What do you plan to do in these areas as prime minister?

Our main objective is to accelerate our country's modernization and development. And we have to develop by leaps and bounds. Poland is in Europe, and the issue now is to make sure that Europe is in Poland. We cannot achieve this alone. The road to success leads through international cooperation, and especially integration within a family of nations united by their shared values. This is why I attach such importance to our presence in the European Union. This is also why we will be pursuing Polish interests within the EU, but also promoting the Polish vision for its continued development. We believe that deepening cooperation within the EU and broadening it is in the best interests of both the entire EU community and our country. The European Union is not a super-state, but it ought to be a superpower. A strong EU is an EU built on the solid foundations of shared values, and its success is also Poland's success. That's why I was among the large group of member state officials who signed the EU Reform Treaty last December.

We will be working to take advantage of the positive atmosphere to restore the proper dimension to our relations with Germany and improve our relations with Russia. As we know, problems in mutual relations between countries don't disappear just because the government changes in one of them. However, problems that divide should be talked through. This explains why in Berlin I voiced an unequivocally negative stance on the proposed Center Against Expulsions in the city and on property claims.

With Russia, we are looking for dialogue, because the lack of dialogue served neither Poland nor Russia, ruining our reputation and disrupting business. I think the time has come for a positive change in this area. Russia's decision to lift its embargo on Polish meat and partially on farm produce is a harbinger of that change. Thus, I am going to Moscow to consolidate these signs of a positive turn in our relations.

As for the United States, much as in the case of the European Union, we are united by shared values. The multidimensional nature of Polish-American relations is expressed not only by our credibility as allies and our country's presence in NATO. Thanks to its strong position in the EU, Poland will remain a supporter of closer cooperation and closer ties between Europe and the United States. We are aware of the political and military importance of the U.S. missile defense initiative. This is why I attach so much importance to further talks on this issue, though I know that they may not end anytime soon.
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