Article of ALSAI's Chairman "Poland, this precious ally of our integration", published in "Albanian Daily News", on June 24-th 2019.

26.06.2019

Polish people and the great Polish nation are similar to us in many things. Like us, the Poles are a freedom-loving nation and have waged endless battles over the centuries to gain their independence. Like us, in the identity of being a Polish, love for the homeland and the national pride are basic virtues.

Poland, this great European country and friend of Albania, has strongly supported our integration into the European Union. For all the agreements for our country's accession to the Euro-Atlantic structures that needed ratification by the parliaments of the EU Member States, Poland has always been in the first group of countries that have ratified it.

Poland is the homeland of world personalities like Pope John Paul II, like Leh Walesa, the leader of the Solidarity Movement who brought the European Spring of Eastern European countries, like President Lech Kaczynski, the promoter of Polish integration into the EU. Today 10 per cent of the new members of the European Parliament come from Poland. Donald Tusk, former Prime Minister of Poland at the time of President Kaczynski and formerly his close associate (later  politically divided), now holds the post of President of the Council of Europe.

For more than two decades, personalities of this friendly State have been lobbying for Albania in the European Union structures. They have sought as well support from countries of the Visegrad Group (where Poland is the leader), such as the Czech Republic and Slovakia in the first place, as well as other EU countries.

Polish politicians know very well what the prospective of opening membership talks into the EU means for a developing country in Central or Southwest Europe (the Balkans). Since 1998, when Poland started membership talks and to date, the country's gross domestic product (GDP) has doubled. Likewise, the average income of the Polish citizen doubled. Poland's economy today represents the sixth largest economy of the European Union, having the fastest economic growth at 3 per cent a year. The country is the main pillar of NATO in Eastern Europe.

Polish assistance to our integration into the EU has intensified in recent months, in the wake of the Council of Europe's decision to open membership talks for Albania. Recent statements by Visegrad countries testify to this. In this initiative undertaken by the Polish State, I think that we should especially appreciate two important political visits, such as the visit of the President of Poland, Mr. Andrzej Duda, honorary guest at the Brdo-Brijuni summit in Tirana on 8-9 May this year in Tirana and that of the delegation of the Polish Parliament on 6 June 2019.

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I. President Duda: a worthy successor to President Lech Kaczynski and great friend of Albania

The visit of the Polish President undoubtedly constituted an important moment for our integration. Poland, with the voice of its most powerful personality today in the international arena, conveyed a significant message from Tirana: "The European Union policy must always be an open door policy," Duda said. "The first reason is that in the past we applied as a nation to be part of the EU, we made a lot of reform efforts to adapt our country's performance to the expectations of the European Commission. We have 15 years in the EU and the support of the Poles is great, because they enjoy the freedom that brought this membership, because of EU funds".

The influence of the Polish President (who came to us in May) is expressed by a significant fact of the last days. On 12 June 2019, the US President Donald Tramp hosted Mr. Duda at the White House and, to his honor allowed the F-35 fighter planes to fly over the White House, highlighting that Poland is building a military base at its own expense to shelter NATO troops for about a thousand American soldiers, who will be added to the presence of over 4 thousand five hundred US troops in the country.

In President Andrzej Duda's CV, in the first line is written: "In 1984, he joined the scouts in Cracow and after several years became a group leader". Duda often refers to his years with the scouts with proud. In Poland and not just in the conservative circles of the country, the term "boyscaut" is associated with a historic, almost mythical grandeur. It is synonymous with features such as patriotism, honesty and self-sacrifice. Many scouts were still children when they fought and died during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944 - a decisive moment for Polish patriotism. The aura of heroism still lives in this great European country, a friendly State for Albanians, with many features similar to us, such as the pride of national history and patriotism. For Andrzej Duda these values were his political battle horses in the presidential election campaign in Poland in 2015, which he won with dignity, integrity and honesty. The voters wanted a patriot to care for them and found him in Duda.

Andrzej Duda throughout his life has not disappointed this image. In 1997 he graduated for jurisprudence at the renowned Polish Jagellonian University (one of the oldest in Europe) in his hometown of Krakow. He opened his legal firm and became a legal expert of the Law and Justice Party, founded by two Kaczynski brothers. With the victory of this party of parliamentary elections in September 2005, Duda assumes the post of Deputy Minister of Justice and then became Lech Kaczynski's support during his presidency. It was a prominent and promising political career under the leadership of Kaczynski and inspired by his reformist and pan-European ideas.

This career continued until April 2010 when President Lech Kaczynski, the figure from whom he was inspired, died in a mysterious plane crash near Smolensk, going to the commemoration ceremony of the 28,000 Polish officers massacred by the nazis in Katin. Andrzei Duda returned to Krakow, but continued the political life.

In September 2013, the “Polityka” news magazine called Duda one of the most active members of the Parliament, describing him as open to opposition arguments and not using personal attacks on his political oponents. Andrzei Duda remained a member of Polish Parliament (the Sejm) until elected MP in the European Parliament in 2014

At the end of 2014, the twin brother of former President Lech Kaczynski, the head of the Law and Justice party, the most prominent personality in Polish political life in these years and  undisputed leader of the right, Jaroslav Kaczynski made the astonishing announcement that Duda would run as a presidential candidate for his party. Andrzei Duda himself announced that he wanted to continue as Lech Kaczynski's "spiritual heir".

The Law and Justice Party, which has been the most powerful opposition party in Poland since 2007, was founded by Kaczynski brothers in 2001. The party positioned itself as defender of Poland and a representative of the Polish citizen in the fight against clans and the influence of large companies, as defenders of Christian democratic values, such as honesty, love for the country, but also internationalism and openness to the world, as long as that opening does not hurt the homeland. The party stands firm for the "three pillars of a healthy society" - the family, jobs, and security. They are also the values based on which Duda made his election campaign as a candidate for President. "We can not rank the Poles into the rich and the poor", he said in the campaign. And he made great promises: re-industrializing the country, strengthening agriculture and supporting social justice. He said that under his leadership, he "will return to people the self-esteem and self-confidence".

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President Duda during the festivities for his election as President, May 2015

The only guarantee of President Duda is his image as a man who keeps his word. "My word is all," he said as he closed his campaign. He also promised free public nurseries for children and the abolition of tariffs for public radio and television programs. In the economic integration plan in the United Europe, he declared that the euro would become the currency of the country "only when all the Poles will earn as much as the people in the West". Committed to the economic, cultural and spiritual prosperity of his people, the Polish President Andrzej Duda is a European leader and carefully avoids any direct attack on the EU. He has nothing against union, as long as the union does not undermine Poland's national interests. This means that Poland is a zealous supporter of the enlargement of the European Union, a "strong and powerful country in the heart of the  united Europe". For Duda, politics is a service for people in his own country.

In Tirana, during the Brdo-Brijuni summit, President Duda strongly confirmed his vision for a United Europe and served the integrating interests of our country when it stated that "the new European Parliament, the new European Commission to be set up soon, will not be concerned only by the fact that the British said they are not any more in the EU. The EU enlargement with the Western Balkan countries and other countries that are applying should be part of the agenda and the aim of the new European Commission".

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II. The visit to Albania on 6 June 2019 by a delegation of the Polish Parliament, chaired by Deputy Parliament Speaker Ryszard Terlecki.

Terlecki stated in Tirana that his country would urge the European Council to immediately open negotiations with Albania. According to him, "The 27 majority MPs in the European Parliament have voiced their pro-negotiation stance at the first meeting of the European Parliament and will ask that the EU initiates the negotiation process with Albania to become part of the European family. Enlargement of Europe is a priority before the EU is strengthened", Terlecki said.

The contribution of Polish parliamentarians has also been noted by two prominent Albanian journalists with European vocation and integrity. In his article "The arguments of the EU against Albania,  pretexts" of 10 June 2019, the leading editorialist for diplomacy in the daily newspaper in English "Albania Daily News", the known journalist Genc Mlloja, in a long interview with Terlecki, states: "According to Mr. Terlecki, the expectations of the Albanian political establishment in connection with the European Union's opening of the accession talks are fully justified Arguments against the opening of the negotiations are simply a pretext because the latter are used in the fight of their internal political affiliations from some EU Member States. (https://www.albaniandailynews.com/index.php?idm=32317&mod=2)       

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Deputy Speaker of Polish Parliament, Mr. Ryszard Terlecki

Below, in his interview with journalist Mlloja, Terlecki continues: "The Summit of the" Berlin Process "will take place in Poznan, Poland, in early July this year. This event has no formal significance but represents an important part of the lobbying process for EU enlargement in the Western Balkans. It is no coincidence that Poland joined this process and that the summit takes place in Poland.

We just came out of the European Parliament elections. We've got a big win. This means that our MPs will receive guidance to work hard on accelerating the EU enlargement process. Now, Poland has 51 euro-deputies (from 571 in total) in the European Parliament. Although we do not know the "geography" of the parliamentary groups to be formed, as the talks continue, in any case one thing is important: Our majority as well as minority MPs in the European parliament will give their strong support to the process of enlargement of the European Union. This is one of the few points where both the position and the opposition have a common language" (https://www.albaniandailynews.com/index.php?idm=32317&mod=2 ).

In his article "The EU changes rules during the game", published in the "Gazeta Shqiptare" on June 13, 2019, journalist Ben Andoni refers to the Polish MP Terlecki: "We will support you with all our possibilities because we really are familiar with this long history of dealing with such situations. "... This is the reason why a group of countries, where Poland is playing the lead, are determined to immediately advocate for Albania", (http://www.gsh.al/2019/06/13/ja-ndryshon-rregullat-gjate-lojes/). Further on in the article, Andoni writes: "Poland has a solution, according to Terlecki: "The European thought will find a solution, but the big family of the European Union must also have the Balkans. They are an integral part of it and time will best demonstrate the authenticity of this ascertainment. Poland will always be with you, in whatever situation". Albania has long been seen within the European family and this is one of the greatest acknowledgments for this people. Terlecki understands, but expresses his gratitude modestly with only a headstand, "concludes the columnist Andoni.

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Waiting for the “Berlin process” summit in Poznan, Poland, in July 2019, where Polish support will continue, I write these lines for the personalities of the Polish State and the nation who are helping us in respecting and acknowledging the contribution that this country has given and is giving for the process of integration and opening of Albania's negotiations with the European Union. I write these lines as well in connection to the close cooperation relationship that Poland's Supreme Public Audit Institution, the Polish NIK has with Albania’s High State Control during 2012-2019, as two partner SAIs (supreme audit institutions) of the two European friendly countries. At the end of June 2019, in Warsaw, we will go to the Contact Committee of the SAIs members of the European Union, where as an observer we also participate to speak our word in an intensive process of integration, where the Polish NIK supports us just as Poland supports Albania in its integration path.