Wednesday 10 June 2009

Lech Walesa honoured by Berlin mayor

Yesterday, former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa has received the highest honour of the city of Berlin, the Ernst Reuter badge, from Berlin's mayor Klaus Wowereit for his outstanding role in making possible the fall of the Wall in the divided city of Berlin 20 years ago.

I had the possibility participating in the honorary ceremony, and was very curious about what Mr Walesa would say, in particular since his appearance at Libertas has been very controversial in the pre-electoral period.

Starting with his role in Solidarity, making very clear that nothing that happened later on would have happened without this movement which took away the legitimacy from the Communist Party to represent the workers, he came quickly to more recent isues.

Today he spoke very pro-European, going as far as asking to think about a "European state". He promoted common solutions for common problems like building good roads all over Europe, so that "the German Mercedes would not lose a wheel on bumpy roads".

He also pointed out that it is in the interest of Germans that there is work all over Europe, because if not, people might first stop buying German cars and, if out of work for too long, would start a new revolution which would be bad for Europe. It was important for Europe not to fall back into nationalism and discrimination of minorities.

He asked Germany to take a lead in Europe, and he said that Germans were too often not aware of their importance and lacked the chance to fulfil their role. If Germany wasn't interested, he said, Poles would be glad if Germany could hand over to them. If not, Germany would have to march ahead and help to fill words like globalisation with life.

Hadn't there been the Libertas story, his speech would have been really nice. He has a funny style of speaking, very lively and conscious of his importance ("You should invite me more often, I have so much to say."), but he doesn't speak like somebody who has grown up with doing political speeches - he sounds as if he is doing it "from the gut".

In the end, after he had given all his ideas and advice, he concluded:

"Now, that you have given me this honorary badge, you should also listen and follow to what I say."

Smiled, and left the stage.