Tributes pour in Poland’s first post-communist prime minister, Tadeusz Mazowiecki
October 29, 2013
Tadeusz Mazowiecki and Lech Walesa during Round Table talks
Celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of the June 4, 1989 partially-free elections in Poland will be a memorial to the late Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski said on Monday.
Mazowiecki, Poland's first prime minister after the 1989 fall of communism, died on Monday morning at the age of 86. He was a key figure in Poland's political transition to democracy, a close adviser to Solidarity's leader Lech Walesa. He oversaw the economic "shock therapy" of the early 1990s, which aimed to replace the country's centrally controlled economy with a free market system. He was also U.N. human rights envoy to Bosnia in the 1990s.
The Polish president thanked Mazowiecki for his courage, wisdom and "iron will", saying he had set the course for Poland's democratic transformation. “The Poles should think with gratitude about everything that has happened in Poland since 1989, when Mazowiecki took office”, Komorowski said.
Walesa said it was a ‘‘pity that such great people are dying. We could have used his wisdom today, when democracy is not so perfect.’’ He saidd that Mazowiecki was the best prime minister Poland ever had. "He was really one of the outstanding people I met on this journey of transition," Walesa added.
Prime Minister Donald Tusk remembered Mazowiecki”s “uncommon calm, a strength of spirit, a very good face and wise eyes which boosted everyone's courage".
Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski described him as "one of the fathers of Polish liberty and independence".
In a message of condolences, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany, praised Mazowiecki for his contribution to the reunification of Europe and of Germany.
"With his tireless dedication to freedom and self-determination, he made an unforgettable contribution to overcoming authority and injustice and also to unifying Europe," Merkel said.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called Mazowiecki a ‘‘great Pole and European, one of the founding fathers of the new Poland and re-united Europe.’’
European Parliament President Martin Schulz called Mazowiecki a "noble character" who had been "instrumental in changing the history of Poland and Europe."
International media devoted a lot of Monday coverage to the late Polish PM.
French daily Le Monde paid homage to the role played by the former prime minister in "normalizing democratic life". “Europe has just lost a remarkable man”, the daily wrote and called him “an untiring advocate for the integration of Poland in a unified – no longer divided – Europe. “He represents one of the noblest causes of the 20th Century. He was part intellectually, morally and politically part of Europe, “ according to Le Monde
Associated Press wrote that “Mazowiecki was well equipped for his role in ousting communism from Poland and shaping a democracy” and noted that as PM he called for drawing a ‘‘thick line’’ to separate the communist past from new Poland, a much-criticized position which contributed to his ouster after a year in office.
BBC reminded that Mazowiecki one of the architects of the "Round Table" talks, between communist leaders and opposition, paving the way for elections in 1989.