Transition is a long process, but 25 years after the country played a leading role in the end of communism in central and eastern Europe, Poland can look back at its achievements with pride.
It was with this sentiment that former president Aleksander Kwaśniewski delivered a keynote speech at the opening of a discussion on “Transition and Governance: Past Successes, Future Challenges” at the EBRD’s 2014 Annual Meeting and Business Forum in Warsaw.
President Kwaśniewski identified six reasons for Poland’s successful transformation: adoption of a reliable constitutional framework; security through membership in NATO and the European Union; consensus around its main political goals; decentralisation of administration; education of the younger generation; and the development of strong democratic institutions.
While he looked back at past achievements with not inconsiderable satisfaction (“Of course I find these changes very good because most of them happened when I was president,” he joked), he was even more bullish about the future: “Perhaps for the first time in its long history of missed opportunities Poland today has the chance to become a major European player.”
A less-upbeat assessment of the wider transition region, however, was provided in the subsequent presentation by Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, Director of the European Research Centre for Anti-Corruption and State-Building, Hertie School of Governance. Under the title “The Other Transition” Ms Mungiu-Pippidi gave a fascinating, if rather depressing account of the root causes of corruption and how difficult it is to eradicate.
Using empirical evidence she showed that collective empowerment and strengthening of civil society can work to combat corruption but they were long-term measures that take time to put in place.
Other speakers on the panel hosted by EBRD Vice President András Simor were Miklós Marschall, Deputy Managing Director, Transparency International, and Djoomart Otorbaev, Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic, who spoke about how over the past quarter of a century some transition countries had made dramatic progress in reforming their political and economic systems, while others were now “stuck in transition”.
The speakers agreed that strengthening the rule of law, tackling corruption and addressing problems in the business environment are complex issues that take time to resolve. Governments needed to demonstrate strong political will to put in place the reforms that would put the transition process back on track.
Thursday 15 May 2014
- András Simor, Vice President, Policy, EBRD
- Aleksander Kwaśniewski, former President of Poland