Ending his four-year term as a Georgetown University Distinguished Scholar in the Practice of Global Leadership, former President of Poland Aleksander Kwaśniewski delivered a farewell speech in the Fisher Colloquium, focusing on the future of Poland and Central and Eastern Europe.

Kwaśniewski, who served from 1995 to 2005 as the Polish head of state, highlighted the challenges that Central and Eastern Europe will face in the future.

One challenge, he said, will be the changing cultural and religious demographics occurring in Europe. Specifically singling out France and Spain as major centers of multicultural demographics, Kwaśniewski said that the European Union’s response to these changes would prove challenging for the internal structure of Europe.

“If you want to look at the future policy of the United States or the global order in the world, it’s necessary to count on the European Union as one of the most important partners of these questions [that] we have today,” he said.

Kwaśniewski spoke of the April 10 crash in Smolensk, Russia, that killed Polish president Lech Kaczynski and first lady Maria, along with 94 other Polish dignitaries and passengers. But Kwaśniewski remained optimistic about the future.

“If you see what has happened after the crash, this is of course, extremely sad and painful. But you see that Polish democracy works, and the constitution has remained strong,” said the former president, a co-author of the current Polish constitution.

“We never thought that such drama could happen, but afterward, the Polish state, democracy and institutions are in good shape.”

He also was hopeful about the future of Russian-Polish relations.

“Differences will exist, but in a better atmosphere we can create a serious dialogue and better relationships, what is in favor of Russia, Poland and the European Union. I am optimistic that this accident [the plane crash] can open up a new and better relationship.”

During a Q-and-A session following his speech, the former president discussed a range of issues, spanning from the current financial crisis in Greece to his predictions of the upcoming Polish presidential elections’ outcome.

“In my opinion, more experience is necessary. I think the favorite is quite obviously [Bronislaw] Komorowski [current acting president] and will most likely win.” Acting President Komorowski faces an election against the late president’s twin brother, Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

“I hope that you – the students of Georgetown, who are interested in foreign policy – will continue to study the region during and after your time at Georgetown. I encourage you to understand that Central and Eastern Europe is important, not only in the past, but today and tomorrow.”

Prior to his appointment in 2006 as a distinguished leader by University President John J. DeGioia, Kwaśniewski was one of the founding members of the New Social Democratic Party of Poland, and served as the party’s chairman. He won the 1995 presidential election and was re-elected in 2000, making him the only Polish president to serve two terms.

He concluded, “It was an honor, an adventure and a time that I will remember. I am extremely grateful.”

**Correction:** A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled former Polish President Aleksander Kwaśniewski’s surname as Kwaniewski.

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