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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » June 30, 2011
Politics & Society
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Obama in Poland
June 30, 2011   
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U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent two-day visit to Warsaw reaffirmed that the two countries share a special relationship and bore testimony to Washington’s view of Poland as a regional leader.

“Poland is one of the strongest and closest allies of the U.S.,” Obama said after his meeting with Prime Minister Donald Tusk on May 28 (see photo).

An American-Polish round table conference focusing on economic growth will be held in the fall, bringing together public and private sector leaders, including officials from the Polish-American Innovation Fund, which Tusk has proposed should be formed.

In so doing, the Polish Prime Minister referred to the issue of the Polish-American Enterprise Fund set up 20 years ago by the American Congress. This $200 million fund was set up to assist in building a free-market economy in Poland. The new fund, on the other hand, would be charged with supporting scientific cooperation between top academic centers in the United States and Poland.

The two leaders declared their willingness to work together in searching for and exploiting shale gas deposits in Poland.

Tusk and Obama also touched on military cooperation between Poland and the U.S. within NATO. A U.S. Air Force unit will be permanently stationed at a Polish air base. U.S. F-16 fighters and transport aircraft will be stationed in Poland on a rotational basis.

Obama also declared that he supports a bill in the U.S. Congress to change visa rules. Poles frequently complain that they still need a visa to get into the United States. Obama said that the bill in Congress aimed to make the percentage of people illegally overstaying their visas in the U.S. the key factor in determining whether to waive visa requirements for a country, rather than the percentage of visas refused.

On the first day of his visit to Poland, May 27, Obama attended the 17th Central European Summit as a special guest. Twenty presidents from the region took part. The meeting, which was chaired by Polish President Bronisław Komorowski, was held in a symbolic location—a room in the presidential palace where the Warsaw Pact was established in 1955 and where the historic Round Table talks were held in 1988-1989 between the communist government and the Solidarity opposition movement.

Obama also laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and paid homage before the Monument to the Heroes of the Jewish Ghetto. He was also shown plans to build a Museum of the History of Polish Jews and said he wanted to bring his daughters to Warsaw once the museum was finished. The building is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2012 and its official opening in the spring of 2013.
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