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Public Papers - 1989

Remarks to Citizens in Hamtramck, Michigan

1989-04-17

Cardinal Szoka, your Eminence. Bob, thank you for the warm greeting to your wonderful community. Governor Blanchard -- it's an honor to have the Governor of the great State here. And I want to pay my respects to the members of the Michigan congressional delegation that came out here with me -- Senator Riegle and several distinguished Members of the House of Representatives sitting over here -- and also to Senator John Engler, who is the majority leader of the Michigan State Senate, and to other elected leaders not only from your community but in other parts of this State.

I'm delighted to be here. Bread and salt are both of the Earth, an ancient symbol of a life leavened by health and prosperity. And in this same spirit, I wish you all the same. And now, if I may, I want to address, at this important gathering, the health and prosperity of a whole nation -- the proud people of Poland. You know, we Americans are not mildly sympathetic spectators of events in Poland. We are bound to Poland by a very special bond: a bond of blood, of culture, and shared values. And so, it is only natural that as dramatic change comes to Poland we share the aspirations and excitement of the Polish people.

In my Inaugural Address, I spoke of the new breeze of freedom gaining strength around the world. ``In man's heart,'' I said, ``if not in fact, the day of the dictator is over. The totalitarian era is passing; its old ideas blown away like leaves from an ancient leafless tree.'' I spoke of the spreading recognition that prosperity can only come from a free market and the creative genius of individuals. And I spoke of the new potency of democratic ideals: of free speech, free elections, and the exercise of free will. And we should not be surprised that the ideas of democracy are returning with renewed force in Europe, the homeland of philosophers of freedom, whose ideals have been so fully realized in our great United States of America. And Victor Hugo said: ``An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.'' My friends, liberty is an idea whose time has come in Eastern Europe, and make no mistake about it.

For almost half a century, the suppression of freedom in Eastern Europe, sustained by the military power of the Soviet Union, has kept nation from nation, neighbor from neighbor. And as East and West now seek to reduce arms, it must not be forgotten that arms are a symptom, not a source, of tension. The true source of tension is the imposed and unnatural division of Europe. How can there be stability and security in Europe and the world as long as nations and peoples are denied the right to determine their own future, a right explicitly promised by agreements among the victorious powers at the end of World War II? How can there be stability and security in Europe as long as nations which once stood proudly at the front rank of industrial powers are impoverished by a discredited ideology and stifling authoritarianism? The United States -- and let's be clear on this -- has never accepted the legitimacy of Europe's division. We accept no spheres of influence that deny the sovereign rights of nations.

And yet the winds of change are shaping a new European destiny. Western Europe is resurgent, and Eastern Europe is awakening to yearnings for democracy, independence, and prosperity. In the Soviet Union itself, we are encouraged by the sound of voices long silent and the sight of the rulers consulting the ruled. We see new thinking in some aspects of Soviet foreign policy. We are hopeful that these stirrings presage meaningful, lasting, and far more reaching change. So, let no one doubt the sincerity of the American people and their government in our desire to see reform succeed inside the Soviet Union. We welcome the changes that have taken place, and we will continue to encourage greater recognition of human rights, market incentives, and free elections.

East and West are now negotiating on a broad range of issues, from arms reductions to the environment. But the Cold War began in Eastern Europe, and if it is to end, it will end in this crucible of world conflict. And it must end -- the American people want to see east and central Europe free, prosperous, and at peace. With prudence, realism, and patience, we seek to promote the evolution of freedom -- the opportunities sparked by the Helsinki accords and the deepening East-West contact. In recent years, we have improved relations with countries in the region. And in each case, we looked for progress in international posture and internal practices -- in human rights, cultural openness, emigration issues, opposition to international terror. While we want relations to improve, there are certain acts we will not condone or accept, behavior that can shift relations in the wrong direction -- human rights abuses, technology theft, and hostile intelligence or foreign policy actions against us.

Some regions are now seeking to win popular legitimacy through reforms. In Hungary, a new leadership is experimenting with reforms that may permit a political pluralism that only a few years ago would have been absolutely unthinkable. And in Poland, on April 5th, Solidarity leader Lech Walesa and Interior Minister Kiszczak signed agreements that, if faithfully implemented, will be a watershed in the postwar history of Eastern Europe.

Under the auspices of the roundtable agreements, the free trade union Solidarnosc was today -- this very day, under those agreements -- Solidarnosc was today formally restored. And the agreements also provide that a free opposition press will be legalized, independent political and other free association will be permitted, and elections for a new Polish senate will be held. These agreements testify to the realism of General Jaruzelski and his colleagues, and they are inspiring testimony to the spiritual guidance of the Catholic Church, the indomitable spirit of the Polish people, and the strength and wisdom of Lech Walesa.

Poland faces, and will continue to face for some time, severe economic problems. A modern French writer observed that communism is not another form of economics: It is the death of economics. In Poland, an economic system crippled by the inefficiencies of central planning almost proved the death of initiative and enterprise -- almost. But economic reforms can still give free rein to the enterprising impulse and creative spirit of the great Polish people.

The Polish people understand the magnitude of this challenge. Democratic forces in Poland have asked for the moral, political, and economic support of the West, and the West will respond. My administration is completing now a thorough review of our policies toward Poland and all of Eastern Europe, and I've carefully considered ways that the United States can help Poland. And we will not act unconditionally. We're not going to offer unsound credits. We're not going to offer aid without requiring sound economic practices in return. And we must remember that Poland still is a member of the Warsaw Pact. And I will take no steps that compromise the security of the West.

The Congress, the Polish-American community -- and I support, I endorse strongly Ed Moskal and what he is doing in the Polish American Congress, I might say; and I'm delighted he's here, good Chicago boy right here in Hamtramck -- that the Congress, the Polish-American community, the American labor movement, our allies, and international financial institutions -- our allies all must work in concert if Polish democracy is to take root anew and sustain itself. And we can and must answer this call to freedom. And it is particularly appropriate here in Hamtramck for me to salute the members and leaders of the American labor movement for hanging tough with Solidarity through its darkest days. Labor deserves great credit for that.

Now the Poles are now taking steps that deserve our active support. And I have decided as your President on specific steps to be taken by the United States, carefully chosen to recognize the reforms underway and to encourage reforms yet to come now that Solidarnosc is legal. I will ask Congress to join me in providing Poland access to our Generalized System of Preferences, which offers selective tariff relief to beneficiary countries. We will work with our allies and friends in the Paris Club to develop sustainable new schedules for Poland to repay its debt, easing a heavy burden so that a free market can grow.

I will also ask Congress to join me in authorizing the Overseas Private Investment Corporation to operate in Poland, to the benefit of both Polish and U.S. investors. We will propose negotiations for a private business agreement with Poland to encourage cooperation between U.S. firms and Poland's private businesses -- both sides can benefit. The United States will continue to consider supporting, on their merits, viable loans to the private sector by the International Finance Corporation. We believe that the roundtable agreements clear the way for Poland to be able to work with International Monetary Fund on programs that support sound, market-oriented economic policies. We will encourage business and private nonprofit groups to develop innovative programs to swap Polish debt for equity in Polish enterprises, and for charitable, humanitarian, and environmental projects. We will support imaginative educational, cultural, and training programs to help liberate the creative energies of the Polish people.

You know, when I visited Poland in September of 1987, I was then Vice President, and I told Chairman Jaruzelski and Lech Walesa that the American people and Government would respond quickly and imaginatively to significant internal reform of the kind that we now see -- both of them valued that assurance. So, it is especially gratifying for me today to witness the changes now taking place in Poland and to announce these important changes in U.S. policy. The United States of America keeps its promises.

If Poland's experiment succeeds, other countries may follow. And while we must still differentiate among the nations of Eastern Europe, Poland offers two lessons for all. First, there can be no progress without significant political and economic liberalization. And second, help from the West will come in concert with liberalization. Our friends and European allies share this philosophy.

The West can now be bold in proposing a vision of the European future. We dream of the day when there will be no barriers to the free movement of peoples, goods, and ideas. We dream of the day when Eastern European peoples will be free to choose their system of government and to vote for the party of their choice in regular, free, contested elections. And we dream of the day when Eastern European countries will be free to choose their own peaceful course in the world, including closer ties with Western Europe. And we envision an Eastern Europe in which the Soviet Union has renounced military intervention as an instrument of its policy -- on any pretext. We share an unwavering conviction that one day all the peoples of Europe will live in freedom. And make no mistake about that.

Next month, at a summit of the North Atlantic alliance, I will meet with the leaders of the Western democracies. The leaders of the Western democracies will discuss these concerns. And these are not bilateral issues just between the United States and the Soviet Union. They are, rather, the concern of all the Western allies, calling for common approaches. The Soviet Union should understand, in turn, that a free, democratic Eastern Europe as we envision it would threaten no one and no country. Such an evolution would imply and reinforce the further improvement of East-West relations in all dimensions -- arms reductions, political relations, trade -- in ways that enhance the safety and well-being of all of Europe. There is no other way.

What has brought us to this opening? The unity and strength of the democracies, yes, and something else: the bold, new thinking in the Soviet Union, the innate desire for freedom in the hearts of all men. We will not waver in our dedication to freedom now. And if we're wise, united, and ready to seize the moment, we will be remembered as the generation that made all Europe free.

Two centuries ago, a Polish patriot, Thaddeus Kosciusko, came to these American shores to stand for freedom. Let us honor and remember this hero of our own struggle for freedom by extending our hand to those who work the shipyards of Gdansk and walk the cobbled streets of Warsaw. Let us recall the words of the Poles who struggled for independence: ``For your freedom and ours.'' Let us support the peaceful evolution of democracy in Poland. The cause of liberty knows no limits; the friends of freedom, no borders.

God bless Poland. God bless the United States of America. Thank you all very much. Niech Zyje Polska! [Long live Poland!] Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:53 a.m. at Hamtramck City Hall. In his opening remarks, he referred to Cardinal Edmund C. Szoka, the Archbishop of Detroit, and Robert Kozaren, mayor of Hamtramck. He also referred to Edward Moskal, president of the Polish-American Congress. Following his remarks, the President attended a luncheon at the Eagle Restaurant. Following the luncheon, he returned to Washington, DC.

A fact sheet entitled ``Support for Polish Reforms'' was also released by the Office of the Press Secretary. In addition to covering the material on this subject found in these remarks, the fact sheet also contained the following points concerning U.S. policy toward Poland:

``Once authorized, OPIC [Overseas Private Investment Corporation] and the Polish Government will negotiate an investment incentives agreement detailing OPIC's rights and the GOP's [Government of Poland's] responsibilities for OPIC-assisted investment.

``In the absence of GSP [Generalized System of Preferences], OPIC would make an independent determination that Poland is taking steps to adopt and implement worker rights. We will work closely with Solidarity.''

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