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The Warsaw Voice » Chair of the Year » April 26, 2012
Chair of the Year
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Tusk Picks up Chair of the Year
April 26, 2012   
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Prime Minister Donald Tusk picked up the Voice’s annual Chair of the Year 2011 award at a ceremony in the main lobby of the Warsaw Stock Exchange building April 19. This is Tusk’s second Chair of the Year. The first time the Voice handed him the award was in 2007.

Andrzej Jonas, the Voice’s editor-in-chief, said, “In our view, Donald Tusk won the elections last year because he delivered a sense of peace and security. And this is also why he was awarded the Chair of the Year award for 2011.”

On collecting the award—instead of the usual uncontroversial acceptance speech that most of the Voice’s previous award winners delivered—Tusk made a sharp, politically-charged statement, commenting on the escalating conflict between the government and the opposition. He said the opposition’s policies are undermining Poland internationally and fueling a sense of insecurity at home. Tusk added the Polish people have demonstrated discipline and optimism during the international economic and financial crisis (excerpts from the prime minister’s speech follow).

As in previous years, the award ceremony drew a crowd of government officials, businesspeople, diplomats, artists and the media.


Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s address:
[excerpts]
It is always an uncomfortable moment for me when I get to collect an award every once in a while. And this isn’t some kind of false modesty on my part. After all, each of us thinks they deserve some kind of reward. But in the case of politicians, a moment like this is always uncomfortable because the Polish people have decided—and I think for good reason—that the only award for politicians should be the votes of citizens every now and again. Any other award for those in power usually annoys citizens, because it’s citizens who should reward and punish those in power. But, in a sense, this award from The Warsaw Voice is after all an award from the people and that’s why I feel both uncomfortable and honored at the same time.

(...)

In the last few years, we have been living with a sense of crisis, even though here in Poland we have managed to protect our countrymen from the worst of this global crisis so far. In our country, the crisis is still not as strongly felt as in many more developed countries in Europe and beyond. And this is a cause for satisfaction for all of us.

(...)

2012 is a bit different and a bit more difficult. Indeed it is impossible not to refer to the words of the editor-in-chief here, but also to the words that have been rocking Poland over the last two weeks or so—words that make me, as the prime minister of the Polish government, feel—forgive this history-and-war rhetoric—a sense of war on two fronts. This sense has been very clear for several weeks now. Only those nations in Europe and around the world that manage to get their inner emotions under control and try to go through this difficult time in solidarity, will be able to deal with the crisis.
(...)
Today, as we prepare for another stage in this big confrontation with the crisis—when there’s every indication that we will be able to demonstrate our strengths to the world and ourselves, when Poland is being talked about with growing recognition, and this recognition can be easily transformed into funds for Poland and the Polish people, precisely because we have been able to deal with all this so well—at a time like this a new front is emerging in what is an internal cold war. For now it’s still only a cold war.

The words that have been uttered in recent days may have consequences. Generally, I somehow feel drawn to the old-fashioned point of view that words and thoughts have practical consequences and those who utter them today—I’m referring to those harsh words, some of them full of hatred and aggression, words that are aimed at the very heart of the nation, against the distinct national interest of Poland and [the best interests of] the Polish people—these words, unfortunately, may also have practical consequences.

I have a sense that—while feeling fully responsible for what is happening in Poland because of the office I hold—the time for joking is over and the main task of the Polish government will be to ensure that all Poles have a sense of security, not only in the face of the crisis, but also in the face of the political crisis we are witnessing. I hope that the recognition expressed by this award will be an additional motivation [for me]—although, frankly speaking, I don’t need any extra motivation when it comes to ensuring this kind of safety, a sense of security for the Polish people and enabling them to work in calm. This is indeed the overriding goal for me for 2012. Thank you very much.
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