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President Barroso's tribute to Tadeusz Mazowiecki, a great Pole and European

Tadeusz Mazowiecki and José Manuel Barroso at the “Citizens' Dialogue” debate in Warsaw on 11 July 2013 © EU

On Sunday 3 November President Barroso attended the state funeral of Tadeusz Mazowiecki, former prime minister of Poland. He joined the mourners in Warsaw to personally pay his tribute to Mr Mazowiecki and "to thank this great Pole and European for what he did to build a new, democratic Poland and for his contribution to a new and re-unified Europe".

The President recalled that Mr Mazowiecki was the first non-communist to head an Eastern Bloc nation since the late 1940s, "even before the fall of the Berlin wall, which became the world famous symbol of European unification and of the end of the Yalta order."

"Not many remember that on the day when the wall was falling in Berlin, the German chancellor Helmut Kohl was meeting in Warsaw with Tadeusz Mazowiecki", the President said.

He highlighted Mr Mazowiecki's role in the transition to democracy in Central and Eastern Europe:

"It is well known that Mazowiecki was one of the architects of the now famous "round table" talks. But he was more than that: he left his strong mark on the Polish model of transition from a communist authoritarian regime to a free, democratic state system with a market economy. It was a revolution. But Mazowiecki was not at all a revolutionary", he said.

"The model of transformation that he defended was based on mediation, negotiation, consensus and political long-sightedness. Today we can say that Mazowiecki was a typically centrist politician, which is a position in the political spectrum I understand very well. He chose a path of wisdom and moderation for Poland, which proved the most effective", President Barroso added.

"It is worth reminding people in Europe today that the Poland's peaceful transition to liberty, democracy and European values became a real textbook case for all of the emerging democracies in Eastern and Central Europe. Mazowiecki’s contribution to European democracy and to the unity of Europe is unforgettable", the President said.

He also mentioned Mr Mazowiecki's engagement both as an intellectual and a politician: "Mazowiecki knew how to combine in one person two approaches that are usually very difficult to reconcile: he was an intellectual and an active politician. Like Geremek, like Havel, he proved that it was possible to serve the common interest by marrying the intellectual pursuit of truth and justice with the determination and astuteness required for effective political action", President Barroso said.

"This is precisely what we need today in Europe: to have a long-term vision of European integration and to find a new narrative for this European project that has no equivalent anywhere in the world", the President said.

The President also brought up Mr Mazowiecki's work in the former Yugoslavia and his determination to defend European values:

"Mazowiecki was a great defender of the values that are so dear to Europe and a promoter of a certain idea of human solidarity and political responsibility. Not only in Poland, not only in the EU. For a lot of people in Europe his name remains linked to his mission as a high representative at the United Nations for the former Yugoslavia. After the Srebrenica massacre in 1995, he resigned from his mandate to protest against the passiveness of the international community when it came to the violation of human rights and humanitarian law", President Barroso said.

"For Mazowiecki, the promises made to people cannot be broken, values cannot be betrayed. Coming from Poland, he refused to accept the views of some that what was happening in former Yugoslavia, in Srebrenica, was a marginal, rather exotic political problem on a world scale", he added.

President Barroso said that, today, Slovenia and Croatia, two states of the former Yugoslavia are members of the European Union and that negotiations are ongoing with others. "I remember Mazowiecki saying that there is nothing real about ‘realpolitik’. I keep it also in mind when the decisions are taken about Syria, about Lampedusa", he said.

He recalled his last meeting with Mr Mazowiecki, at the citizens' dialogue in Warsaw, on 11 July 2013, when he received a message to take back to Brussels. "When I met Tadeusz Mazowiecki last time, he wished that Europeans took a greater sense of shared responsibility for Europe. He also asked me to take from Poland to Brussels the message of optimism", the President said. "He was very right: two essential things we need in Europe are a greater sense of shared responsibility and more confidence, more optimism for our common future, our European destiny."