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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » November 25, 2011
Politics & Society
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We Need to Put Our House in Order
November 25, 2011   
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In an exclusive interview, Lech Wałęsa tells The Warsaw Voice about what needs to be done urgently for Poland to put its house in order:
The most pressing issues add up to a long list. To begin with, Poland needs order. Almost all areas of public life need to be put in order, including health care, the judiciary system, pensions, road construction, the education system and the public finance system, this last area being the top priority at this time of global crisis. In order to put things in Poland back in order, those in power should gain a broader perspective and look beyond their own interests and the interests of their political parties.

The economy needs a new approach from the trade unions, government administration and owners of the means of production. Most importantly, each measure has to take into account human beings. Machines are made for us, but they must not replace us. If modernization in a company means that employees have to be laid off, they need to be reskilled and given new jobs.

What also has to be ensured is better control over financial institutions. Banks cash in our money without restraint and they frequently put our savings at risk. I believe this is where trade unions could step in and take on a new role.

Still, we will not move an inch forward unless we come up with systems to solve conflicts between employers, employees and the government. If each of the parties comes up with their own idea, then what we should do is take our seats at the negotiation table and talk. Disputes, for instance in politics, are necessary, but they should always end with having a wise point to make and some new and better quality.

We happen to be living in a time when historical eras are changing along with countries, entire continents and social systems. We are part of the EU, an organization that also lacks a uniform structure and uniform political program. Each member state has programs of its own and this is what the social system is like as well. Contemporary Europe has different taxes, different health care models, different social benefits and pension systems. Building something like a single state seems to be out of the question, but we have to see to it that living standards are made equal so that things are more or less the same across the EU. It is wrong for factories to be moved from one country to another where labor force is cheaper.

Why is driving a car a more or less safe experience around the world? Because traffic regulations are similar everywhere. Meanwhile, such similarities are missing in areas such as taxes, social welfare and health care, which is why it is sometimes hard to reach an agreement on things like aid for Greece and other crisis-stricken countries. Guarantees of aid for Greece are a step in the right direction, but they are just a temporary remedy that, while appropriate at this particular moment, fail to look far into the future. Europe needs a more systemic approach. We may now expect other countries to reach out for help and, understandably, each of them will seek to snatch as big a slice for itself as possible. Here is where common value systems and European responsibility should play a special role. Without shared wisdom and solidarity, we will tear Europe to pieces. The richer ones will just grab their stuff and forget about solidarity and equal opportunities. The past several months have exposed inefficient decision-making processes, sluggish structures and tardy procedures. People are still unable to see the bigger picture and the tools are not adapted to a global age.

Lech Wałęsa was the legendary leader of Poland’s Solidarity movement and won the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize. He was Polish president from 1990 to 1995.

The Warsaw Voice named him the Man of the Year in 1990 and gave him its “Chair of Two Decades” Award in 2008.
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