Don't Waste What Solidarity Helped to Win, Says Walesa

Labor Union Founder Addresses 25th Anniversary Conference

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GDANSK, Poland, AUG. 31, 2005 ( A conference on the contribution of the labor union Solidarity to the recovery of democracy in Central Europe, ended with the participation of more than 20 presidents and prime ministers.

In his address at the «From Solidarity to Freedom» conference, union founder Lech Walesa emphasized that what is most important today is to prevent the waste of the great opportunity that new generations have.

«We broke quite a few of the bear’s teeth in Gdansk, and the strength we had we owed in great measure to Pope John Paul II,» said Walesa, who was greeted with a great ovation.

According to the founder of the Solidarity labor union, the struggle of Polish workers was indispensable for the birth of a new era, the era of information and globalization.

For his part, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, a former Communist official, recalled that 25 years ago, millions of people affiliated with Solidarity rebuilt the world scene and carried out a revolution without violence.

«I thank Lech Walesa and Solidarity for their merits, which made a great contribution to the democratization of Europe. Without August 1980, which we commemorate today, Ukraine’s Orange Revolution would not have been possible,» said Kwasniewski.

Ukrainian praise

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko agreed with his Polish counterpart and confirmed that without the epic achievement of Solidarity, democracy would not have triumphed in Ukraine.

In a letter addressed to the conference participants, former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, who was unable to attend the Gdansk celebrations, pointed out that Solidarity is «a union and movement that united men and women from various environments in the name of political rights and a better lifestyle.»

«After Solidarity was created, Poland turned into a free and dynamic society, which serves as a great example of successful transformations,» added Bush, who is the father of the current U.S. president.

Vaclav Havel, former president of the Czech Republic, supported the ideas expressed by the elder Bush and pointed out that Belarus is a concrete case in which the democratic world should support the aspirations of a people with curtailed and limited rights.

The conference, which began its sessions in Warsaw, dedicated the first day to an evaluation of the fruits of Solidarity, the movement that sparked the end of Communist totalitarianism and served as a direct example to Ukrainians and Georgians in their recent peaceful revolutions.

The second day was devoted to human rights, to the threats hovering over the latter in many areas, and to the responsibility of countries enjoying democracy to defend those rights.

Closing Mass

The conference participants supported the proposal, presented by Polish Euro-deputies, that Aug. 31 be proclaimed Freedom and Solidarity Day throughout Europe.

The conference was one of the highlights of the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the birth of Solidarity, the first free and independent labor union of the Communist world.

Solidarity was founded 25 years ago, after almost two months of strikes and the occupation of dozens of companies by Polish workers, headed by Lech Walesa.

The anniversary celebrations culminated with a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow and longtime private secretary of Pope John Paul II. Attending were numerous world leaders, including EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso and German President Horst Köhler.

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