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Aleksander Kwasniewski

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Template:Titlelacksdiacritics Template:Infobox Polish politicians

Aleksander Kwaśniewski (pronounced: Missing image
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[alεk'sandεr kʋaɕɲefskʲi]) is a Polish politician and the current President of Poland. He was born on November 151954 in Białogard. During the communist era he was active in the communist Socialist Union of Polish Students (Socjalistyczny Związek Studentw Polskich, SZSP) and was sports minister in the 1980s. He was also a former leader of the left-wing Socjaldemokracja Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej, successor to the former ruling Polish United Workers Party, and later of the Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej (Democratic Left Alliance).

Kwaśniewski was elected president in 1995, defeating the incumbent, Lech Wałęsa. He was re-elected to a second and final term as president in 2000 in a decisive first-round victory.

He married lawyer Jolanta Kwaśniewska in 1979. They have a daughter, Aleksandra, born in 1981. Kwaśniewski has stated on several occasions that he is an atheist.


Contents

1973–1991: Early political career

In the years 1973 to 1977, Aleksander Kwaśniewski studied transport economics and foreign trade at the University of Gdańsk, though he never graduated. He became politically active at this time, and joined the ruling Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR) in 1977, remaining a member until it was dissolved in 1990. An activist in the communist student movement until 1982, he held, among other positions, the chairmanship of the University Council of the Socialist Union of Polish Students (SZSP) from 1976 to 1977 and the vice-chairmanship of the Gdańsk Voivodship Union from 1977 to 1979. Kwaśniewski was a member of the SZSP supreme authorities from 1977 to 1982. From November 1981 to February 1984 he was the editor-in-chief of the student weekly ITD, then editor-in-chief of the daily Sztandar Młlodych from 1984 to 1985. He was a co-founder of the first computer-science periodical in Poland, Bajtek, in 1985.

From 1985 to 1987, Kwaśniewski was Minister for Youth Affairs in the Zbigniew Messner government, and then Chairman of the Committee for Youth and Physical Culture till June 1990. He joined the government of Mieczysłlaw Rakowski, first as a cabinet minister and then as chairman of the government Social-Political Committee from October 1988 to September 1989. A participant in the Round-Table negotiations, he co-chaired the task group for trade-union pluralism with Tadeusz Mazowiecki and Romuald Sosnowski. As the PZPR was wound up, he became a founding member of the Social Democratic Party of the Republic of Poland from January to February 1990, and its first chairman until he assumed the presidency in December 1995. He was also one of the founding members of the Democratic Left Alliance in 1991.

A sports enthusiast, Kwaśniewski was an activist in the Student Sports Union from 1975 to 1979 and the Polish Olympic Committee (PKOL); he later served as PKOL president from 1988 to 1991.

1991–1995: Parliamentary terms

Running for the Sejm from the Warsaw constituency in 1991, he won the largest number of votes (148,533). Kwaśniewski headed the parliamentary caucus of the Democratic Left Alliance in his first and second terms (1991-1995). He was a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and chairman of the Constitutional Committee of the National Assembly from November 1993 to November 1995.

1995–2005: Presidency

In an often bitter campaign, Aleksander Kwaśniewski won the presidential election in 1995, collecting 51.7 percent of votes in the run-off, against 48.3 percent for the incumbent, Lech Wałęsa, the former Solidarity leader. Kwaśniewski's campaign slogans were "Let's choose the future" (Wybierzmy przyszłość) and "A Poland for all" (Wsplna Polska). Political opponents disputed his victory, claiming that he had lied about his education in registration documents, implying that he had graduated from university; a court challenge proved unsuccesful.

Kwaśniewski took the presidential oath of office on December 231995. Later the same day, he was sworn in as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces at the Warszawa First Fighter Wing, in Mińsk Mazowiecki.

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Kwaśniewski with his wife Jolanta Kwaśniewska and Pope John Paul II.

Despite the polarization brought about by his election, and opposition fears that a Kwaśniewski presidency would signal a return to communism, he proved a surprisingly popular leader. His political course resembled that of Wałęsa's in several key respects, such as the pursuit of closer ties to the European Union and NATO, and the transition to a market economy and the privatization of state-owned enterprises, but he was able to avoid the conflicts with the Sejm that had often characterized his predecessor's term of office.

An initial success of Kwaśniewski's was his ability to bring about a new Constitution of Poland to replace the modified Stalinist document then still in use. The failure to create a new document had been a criticism often leveled at Wałęsa. Kwaśniewski actively campaigned for its approval in the subsequent referendum, and he signed it into law on July 161997.

Kwaśniewski took an active part in the efforts to secure Polish membership of NATO. He headed Poland's delegation at the 1997 Madrid summit, where Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary were promised membership; and the Washington summit, where on February 261999, during the Kosovo conflict, which he supported, he signed the instruments ratifying Poland's membership of NATO. He also took active part in promoting further enlargement of the alliance, speaking out in favor of membership for a further seven states (see Prague summit) and the open-door policy that leaves open the option of further members. He was an author of the 2002 Riga Initiative, a forum for cooperation between Central European states, aimed towards further enlargement of NATO and the European Union.

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Kwaśniewski with the former President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel.
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Kwaśniewski and Wałęsa shaking hands at John Paul II's funderal, in the center Tadeusz Mazowiecki.

An advocate of regional cooperation in Central and Eastern Europe, Kwaśniewski hosted a summit of the region's leaders at Łańcut in 1996. Speaking out against the danger organized crime posed to the region, he submitted a draft of a convention on fighting organised crime to the UN in 1996. He was an active participant at meetings of regional leaders in Portorož in 1997, Levoča in 1998, and Lviv and Yalta in 1999. After a history of sometimes acrimonious relations with Lithuania, Kwaśniewski was a driving force behind the presidential summit in Vilnius in 1997, at which the two countries' presidents signed a treaty of friendship. Poland subsequently became one of the strongest advocates of Lithuanian membership in NATO and the European Union.

In 2000 he was re-elected in the first round of voting, collecting 53.9 percent of the vote. His election campaign slogan was: "A home for all—Poland" (Dom wszystkich—Polska). On December 232000 he took office for the second term.

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, Kwaśniewski organized an international conference in Warsaw, with participation of leaders from Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe to strengthen regional activities in fighting international terrorism. Under Kwaśniewski's leadership, Poland became a strong ally of the United States in the war on terror, and contributed troops in the Iraq War, a move that was highly controversial in Poland. Poland was in charge of a sector of Iraq after the removal of Saddam Hussein.

Polish membership of the European Union became a reality on May 12004, during Kwaśniewski's second term. Both he and his wife Jolanta had campaigned for approval of the EU accession treaty in June 2003.

Awards

Aleksander Kwaśniewski was honored with the following decorations:

  • Knight of the Order of the White Eagle (ex officio)
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    President Kwaśniewski greets President of the USA George Bush.
  • Lithuania's Order of Vytautas the Great, 1st grade (1996) and the Order of Grand Lithuanian Duke Gedyminas, 1st grade;
  • Great Britain's Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (March 1996) and the Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (October 1996)
  • Italy's Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (1996)
  • France's Grand Cross of the Order of the Legion of Honour (1996)
  • Norway's Royal Order of Saint Olaf (1996)
  • Greece's Grand Cross of the Order of the Saviour (1996)
  • Latvia's Order of Three Stars (1997)
  • Finland's Grand Cross of the Order of the White Rose of Finland with Collar (1997)
  • Malaysia's Royal Order of Merit (1997)
  • Ukraine's Order of Yaroslav the Wise, 1st class (1997)
  • Portugal's Order of Infant Henry with Grand Ribbon (1997)
  • Estonia's Grand Cross with the Ribbon of Terra Mariana (1998)
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    Mariyinsky_Nov26_2004_talks.jpg
    Kwaśniewski (between Leonid Kuchma and the new President Viktor Yushchenko) during Round table talks in Ukraine.
  • Romania's Order of the Star of Romania with Ribbon (1999)
  • Chile's Grand Chain of the Order of Merit (1999)
  • Belgium's Grand Ribbon of the Order of Leopold (1999)
  • Turkey's Order of the Republic (2000)
  • Croatia's Great Order of King Tomislav with the Ribbon and Great Star (2001)
  • Spain's Order of Catholic Isabelle with Chain (2001)
  • Brazil's National Order of Southern Cross (2002)
  • Peru's Special Grand Cross of the Order of Merit (2002)
  • Germany's Grand Cross of Merit (2002)
  • Japan's Grand Ribbon of the Great Order of Chrysanthemum
  • International: Order of Smile
  • International: Golden Olympic Order of the International Olympic Committee in (1998)
  • International: Golden Order of Merit of the International Amateur Athletic Federation (1999)
  • International: Order of Merit of the European Olympic Committee (2000)

He was also awarded the highest distinction of the Polish Orthodox Church, The Order of Saint Magdalena, first degree with decorations (1998). He also received the television "Wiktor" prizes in 1993, 1995, and 2000.

See also

External links


Preceded by:
Lech Walesa
President of Poland
1995–present
Succeeded by:
current incumbent

Template:End boxbg:Александър Квашневски da:Aleksander Kwasniewski de:Aleksander Kwaśniewski es:Aleksander Kwaśniewski fr:Aleksander Kwaśniewski gl:Aleksander Kwasniewski hr:Aleksander Kwasniewski nl:Aleksander Kwasniewski no:Aleksander Kwaśniewski ja:アレクサンデル・クファシニェフスキ pl:Aleksander Kwaśniewski ro:Aleksander Kwaśniewski sv:Alexander Kwasniewski zh:亞歷山大克瓦希涅夫斯基

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