Gay rights activists protest against Polish leader
9 March 2006, BERLIN - A group of gay rights demonstrators stormed into a Berlin university auditorium Thursday shortly before Poland's conservative president, Lech Kaczynski, was due to give a speech on European affairs.
9 March 2006
BERLIN - A group of gay rights demonstrators stormed into a Berlin university auditorium Thursday shortly before Poland's conservative president, Lech Kaczynski, was due to give a speech on European affairs.
Chanting "Get this man out of the university," the demonstrators called Kaczynski "an anti-Democrat" for his hardline stance on gay rights and banning gay pride marches when mayor of Warsaw.
Flanked by bodyguards, Kaczynski sat impassively as one of the protesters was allowed to speak to the gathering at Berlin's prestigious Humboldt University.
During his remarks, the protester roundly criticised Kaczynski's views on homosexual issues while police were called into the auditorium as the president prepared to deliver his speech.
"I taught for 30 years at university but never in circumstances like this," Kaczynski said before going on to outline his views on solidarity in Europe.
The president spoke out in favour of a European military corps and enlargement of the European Union but warned of the dangers posed by the EU becoming too big.
One of the achievements of post-war Europe, he said, was the strength of its economy. This had a positive effect on the continent's development, but the question was whether this could be carried over into the political sphere.
While supporting the idea of European integration, Kaczynski warned that the process should not be rushed "so that it achieves results for which we are not ready".
"The social state of Europe is already in crisis," he said, citing high unemployment rates in countries like Germany where 12.2 per cent of the workforce is without a job.
"We have to ask ourselves why. Perhaps the neo-liberal medicine has too many side-effects," he said in a reference to economic reforms and globalization of the economy.
"Europe needs to create new dynamic projects," he said. One of them could be the dispatch of a Euro military corps to carry out limited intervention for humanitarian purposes.
Turning to European enlargement, Kaczynski noted that the EU already had 25 members, with Bulgaria and Romania hoping to join next January and other states waiting in the wings.
"Enlargement will prove a big test for the solidarity of Europe," he said, placing an enormous burden on financing, structural reform and cohesion funds.
He cited the example of Ukraine, a country of 47 million, and other former Soviet republics who would like to be absorbed into the European Union.
The speech was not as hard-hitting as an interview he gave to the German daily Die Welt on Wednesday in which he referred to the European Union as an "artificial entity".
The EU, he told the newspaper, was "a superstate that drew together national powers while at the same time appearing unsure of what to do because it had only a symbolic budget."
In his speech, the president made no reference to energy policies, which was a major topic of his talks on Wednesday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The president is in favour of an energy alliance of European or NATO members, which Warsaw hopes would stop Russia threatening to cut off natural gas supplies to individual countries, as happened in January with Ukraine.
Germany has forged close energy contacts with Russia under former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, resulting in agreement last year to build a gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany, bypassing Poland and the Baltic states.
Questioned after his speech about Poland's blocking of a merger of two Polish banks owned by Uni Credit of Italy, the president defended the action.
"Uni Credit would become far too powerful if the deal were allowed to go ahead," Kacyzski said, playing down a warning by EU regulators to Poland to stop blocking the planned deal.
Subject: German news