Lech Walesa

‘There’s No Alternative to Europe’

lech walesa
Polish 1983 Nobel peace laureate Lech Walesa speaks during the XV World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Barcelona, Spain.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Former Polish President Lech Walesa believes that the Europe Union needs to come together with a new consensus, in order to solve the bloc’s most pressing problems.

  • Facts


    • Mr. Walesa proposes a mini-constitution for Europe consisting of 10 non-religious commandments.
    • This constitution could serve as a basis for common laws.
    • Mr. Walesa believes that the solution to the refugee crisis lies in addressing the issues that cause people to flee so that they can eventually return home.
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Lech Walesa doesn’t think much of formalities.  He started off his interview by walking into the conference room, sitting down and saying: “First question!” He was wearing the red-and-white pin of his Solidarity union on his lapel.

As head of the Solidarity trade union, founded in 1980, Mr. Walesa, an electrician by trade, played a key role in Poland’s peaceful transition away from communism. Solidarity won the first open elections in the country in June 1989.

He had been awarded the Nobel Peace Price in 1983. In 1990 Mr. Walesa, now 72, was elected to a five-year-term as president of Poland.

Last month the conservative Law and Justice party won the Polish elections. It was the first time since the return of democracy that one party had won a majority in the lower house of parliament.

On Saturday, the incoming European affairs minister, Konrad Szymanski, said Poland would not be able to accept refugees under an E.U. relocation scheme after the Paris attacks.

Mr. Walesa spoke to Handelsblatt while in Barcelona to attend a meeting of Nobel laureates. He discussed the aftermath of the Paris attacks, the refugee crisis and how Europe can come together to ensure better cooperation in the future.


Handelsblatt: Mr. Walesa, what needs to happen after the attacks in Paris?

Lech Walesa: We need more global structures than we have today. Terrorism is an issue that cannot be resolved by individual countries. We need to take a joint approach against anti-Semitism, racism, ethnic cleansing and terrorism.

What exactly does that mean for Europe?

In the past, Europe had Christianity as a sort of shared ideology. Then there was communism in the East and the market economy in the West. How we feel about these individual ideologies isn’t important, but somehow they did provide some cohesion. Now it no longer exists.

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