It was a great honor for me to welcome the Thirteenth NATO Workshop to Warsaw. The fact that this event took place in the city where the Warsaw Pact was signed in 1955 and where the dismantling of the Iron Curtain began in 1989 is a spectacular symbol of the historic changes in Europe. The Workshop opened in the Warsaw Royal Castle, destroyed during World War II and raised from ruins by the common effort of all Poles. It is a place of special emotional value to us. For centuries, amidst Poland's turbulent history, it symbolized the sovereignty of the Polish state and our nation's determination to maintain that sovereignty against often overwhelming odds. It is also here that the Polish May Constitution of 1791--the second written constitution in the world, after the American Constitution--was passed. The constitution laid the foundation for a modern society based on the principles of freedom and equality, and we still look to it for inspiration. The hosting of the Workshop, a distinguished meeting of senior government, political, and military leaders, is yet another memorable event in the castle's long history.
In recent years, the nations of Europe have done a great deal to change the face of our continent. The age of bipolarity and hostility is over. Yesterday's enemies have become partners and friends, jointly looking for a new security architecture that can overcome the legacy of the Cold War and help build a true community that includes all European nations. The evolution of the role and mission of the Atlantic Alliance embodied in the North Atlantic Cooperation Council, the Partnership for Peace program, the IFOR operation, and the recent decisions of the Berlin Ministerial meeting clearly demonstrates that NATO has changed too, and has become much more than a collective-defense organization. Today it is, to a large extent, a guarantor of stability and an organizer of security cooperation on a continental scale.
Membership in such an alliance is an honor and an obligation we wish to share. This desire is common to all political forces Poland and enjoys the support of an overwhelming majority of the Polish public, as does the wish to join the integrating structure of the European Union.
Since 1989, every Polish government has repeatedly stated that it is opposed to a division of Europe along either the Oder or the Bug River. Let me reaffirm this position. While continuing our efforts to join NATO, we do not wish to draw new dividing lines in Europe. To the contrary--we wish to contribute to the great endeavor to unite and integrate our continent. Poland has great interest in fully participating in the process of bridging the historical divisions in Europe. To do so, however, Poland must strengthen its ties with the West and its many cultural and social achievements.
Getting together under a common European roof requires that we be open with each other and learn about each other, eliminating old anxieties, myths, and stereotypes. We are convinced that the Workshop forum provides an ample opportunity to do so--to exchange opinions, knowledge, and expertise on a broad range of problems related to European security. Such exchanges should deepen our understanding of our continent's security needs and help find ways to satisfy them.
On behalf of the Polish government, I hope that the NATO Workshop of 1996 has been a fruitful and memorable event, worthy of the historical moment at which it took place.
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