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Poland: Prime Minister Blames Post-Communists For Economic Problems

Warsaw, 10 November 1997 (RFE/RL) - Poland's Prime Minister-designate Jerzy Buzek pledged Monday to begin repair of the Polish state, previously run by the leftist government.

Buzek, in his speech to the Sejm (lower house of Parliament), said his Solidarity-dominated Cabinet is facing a difficult task of making up for the time lost when the leftist government was in office for last four years.

Buzek said the former team slowed down privatization, and that the economic growth of the country was inadequate.

"Now Poland has to be changed," he said.

Buzek stressed that the Solidarity labor union, which dominates the Sejm and his Cabinet, was the first to oppose the Communist system 16 years ago, triggering a process of the dismantling of Communism in Europe and contributing to the collapse of the "(Soviet) empire of evil." He also said the Communist system installed in Poland had a "criminal character" and brought economic degradation of the country.

President Aleksander Kwasniewski, a former Communist, disagreed with Buzek's assessment.

"It was one of the most political speeches since 1989," he told reporters when Buzek ended his statement. "There were black pages in the history of Communist Poland," Kwasniewski said. "But the fact is the country existed, the economy and culture operated and there were things I could be proud of."

Buzek promised faster pace of privatization and restitution of property nationalized by the Communists. "The process of privatization must be completed by the year 2001," he said. He also said that more funds will be earmarked from the state budget for education, health and army and police.

Turning to foreign policy goals, Buzek said only NATO can guarantee Poland's security, and he also called for more rapid European Union integration.

Buzek said he favors the "Europe of motherlands," saying Poland will maintain its Polish identity when it becomes an EU member. Buzek recalled he presided over the first Solidarity labor union Congress in Gdansk 16 years ago, which issued a statement to other Communist states, urging them to shake off the yoke of Communism.

"The statement seemed to be unreal to be implemented then,' he said. "But now we are neighbors of free Lithuania and free Ukraine."

Buzek said he is concerned about the situation in Belarus, which, he said, is heading backwards as compared with the other former communist states. And, he said, "I am convinced it is only a temporary tendency in Belarus."

In his speech, Buzek also praised reform progress in Romania and Bulgaria.

Minutes before Buzek started speaking, Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski and Freedom Union leader Leszek Balcerowicz signed a coalition agreement.

Krzaklewski's Solidarity Election Action (AWS), which won the parliamentary election September 21, has 16 jobs in the Cabinet, and the third-placed Freedom Union received six Cabinet posts.

Buzek's program now is debated, and faces a confidence vote in the Sejm. In line with the new constitution, he must get at least 231 votes for his government to take office. The government coalition has 260 seats in the 460-member Sejm.