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Interview with Tadeusz Mazowiecki

(Tadeusz Mazowiecki)

Tadeusz Mazowiecki

Malgorzata Dzieduszycka: Are we getting close to accessing the European Union?

Tadeusz Mazowiecki: This question should be put to Western Europe. As far as we, in Poland, are concerned this is a rhetoric question. We have always felt we are part of Europe, or at least in Poland we do and in my opinion so does the rest of Central Europe. However, it is only today that we can confidently give a positive answer. This was not the case in 1989 when the answer was not so clear and obvious. To some people, to some politicians who believe that the EU should remain a Union of Nations with what one might call a Carolinian tradition, the answer remains just as obvious.

The actual question should be whether it is desirable to perpetuate the division and retain the sense of Europe in a strictly geographic sense, not clearly defined, or whether to go beyond that division.

M. Dzieduszycka: Do you feel responsible for Europe?

T. Mazowiecki: Yes, and the reason is that I come from a nation and a country having close ties with European tradition, with West European tradition to be more precise, and because in my opinion Europe is likely to have a meaningful role in the forthcoming division of our world.

M. Dzieduszycka: What do you mean by "the forthcoming division of our world"?

T. Mazowiecki: What I mean is that after the era of the bi-division we have begun to detect different centers of influence and are probably entering a new phase regarding the situation worldwide. I believe that only Europe as a whole can have some meaningful role to play in this new world about to be shaped.

I repeat, however, that in order to achieve this aim we must count on the determination to have a united Europe and also count on the help from Western Europe to Central and Eastern Europe if we want to overcome this civilization cleavage.

M. Dzieduszycka: What were you able to contribute to the cause of this new and united Europe?

T. Mazowiecki: To start with we changed the trend of Polish politics by opening up towards the West. Secondly, we made a radical change in Polish-German relations seeing that such policy is of utmost importance to this part of the world. Thirdly we opened up towards all of our neighbors stressing the fact that we can only envisage the future in the framework of good and peaceful relations. In other words, we accepted the only political standing that makes sense in today's Europe, assuming that Europe is to become a unit and that it must develop rather than to return to ancient conflicts such as occur in places like former Yugoslavia..

In this way we tackled three important questions: the opening up towards the West, the settling of Polish-German relations and a global opening up towards each and every one of our neighbors.

M. Dzieduszycka: In your opinion, what direction is Europe going to take forward?

T. Mazowiecki: I agree with what is contained in Havel's outline: the direction must be set by a spiritual inspiration dawning upon Europe; by seeking to restore the deeper roots of a unified European culture, of something that is hard to name. We have witnessed the disappearance of Europe's political divisions, an era of economic cooperation has begun and differences in civilization are decreasing. On the other hand we feel that factors of merely political and economic nature, no matter how important, must not become the backbone of European unity. I believe it was Jean Monnet, one of the fathers of the European Union, said who in the days when EU bore the title of the Steel and Coal Union, that he is concerned about steel and coal but none of these bear any great interest for him. For him what matters is politics.

Nowadays, to paraphrase this saying, one might say that when one tackles matters related to adapting East European agriculture to the demands of Western European economics what really matters is the deep union of Europe, a union extending beyond politics.

We are, however, unable to give a precise definition of this objective and are unable to say what should be the role of politics and of politicians in achieving it. It is evident that churches and Christianity have a role to play but the role that is to be played by politics and politicians is hard to define.

We realize that the price of bananas let alone that of oil are not most important and that what matters is to return to deeper cultural roots and to the living source of European culture.

As an additional comment I should like to say that Europe must not be considered separetely because it is a part of all humanity and that this question of all-encompassing human solidarity has practically gone into oblivion.

The era of fostering the third-world is now behind us. We no longer bother about it and wish to live according to standars of the wealthy countries. Well, if Europe is to play its proper role it must set aright its differences in civilisation and act likewise with regard to the rest of the world. This goal, hovever, will never be achieved if we do not consider the foundations underlying European culture.

M. Dzieduszycka: Does this mean that in your opinion the responsibility of European politicians can be translated as the capacity to keep a good balance between their own interests and those of the rest of Europe, or do you place this responsibility within the larger scope of responsibilities towards other parts of the world? Do you extend the Europeans' responsibility to the rest of the world?

T. Mazowiecki: I believe that there is a close tie between both.

M. Dzieduszycka: With regard to Europe, can you blame yourself for anything? Did anything ever go wrong with your endeavors?

T. Mazowiecki: It is hard to say. What went wrong? Perhaps our hopes and our dreams went too far.

M. Dzieduszycka: What dreams?

T. Mazowiecki: One of them was that once the iron curtain fell, some projects would come into effect without undue delay. In practice we saw how difficult it is to achieve this aim and we abandoned thoughts of utopia to assume more realistic guidelines. It is hard to sum up our results and to say whether we succeeded. In my opinion we achieved a lot despite obstacles. Let's put it this way: the extent of our dreams is far removed from that of reality.

M. Dzieduszycka: What was the greatest obstacle in making these dreams come true?

T. Mazowiecki: I would say that, aboveall it was the utopian formula that "what we need is a new Marshall plan" came in the first place. In reality economic considerations were of primary importance.

M. Dzieduszycka: Therefore in your opinion, was poverty the main obstacle?

T. Mazowiecki: Yes, it was. But there was a second one as well. I referred earlier on to spiritual values that must be rediscovered and restored in Europe. Have we succeded ? I think not. We were unable to convey our own experiences that undeniably carry some weight. We were unable to convey the idea that our souls were saved in a totalitarian environment by remaining faithful to basic values.

M. Dzieduszycka: Are you thinking about transmitting this sort of experience to our Western partners, or do you mean to say that our own people, the voters of today, should be reminded of it?

T. Mazowiecki: I mean both things. When I refer to Europe it is the West that I have in mind. The experience we lived through has not been considered as a global human experience and as far as culture is concerned this is a very important factor.

M. Dzieduszycka: It is hard to convey one's own experiences in such a way that someone else could adopt them for themselves. Photographs of children, victims of the war, are shown worldwide by the TV. They are a good indication that it is not enough to know about facts and show that there is no sense of responsibility in those who merely get to look at them.

T. Mazowiecki: This is precisely the reason why I doubt that there is any sense in discussing these facts over the Internet.

M. Dzieduszycka: We all feel the same but there may be some sense in the peculiarities of this media over which a privately voiced opinion may become a public outcry and a visit to a web site by someone like yourself may well be taken by others as a personal contact with you. Some good might come out of it.

T. Mazowiecki: I may be too sceptical but the fact is I don't yet know how to handle this tool.

M. Dzieduszycka: An additional reason for us to thank you for agreeing to grant us this interview.

Interview by Małgorzata Dzieduszycka
Translated by C. Niedenthal