Aleksander Kwaśniewski

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Aleksander Kwaśniewski
Aleksander kwasniewski konferencja (cropped).jpg
Kwaśniewski in 2005
President of Poland
In office
23 December 1995 – 23 December 2005
Prime MinisterJózef Oleksy
Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz
Jerzy Buzek
Leszek Miller
Marek Belka
Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz
Preceded byLech Wałęsa
Succeeded byLech Kaczyński
Leader of Social Democracy
In office
30 January 1990 – 23 December 1995
Preceded byPosition established
Mieczysław Rakowski (As First Secretary of the Polish United Workers' Party)
Succeeded byJózef Oleksy
Personal details
Born (1954-11-15) 15 November 1954 (age 68)
Białogard, Polish People's Republic
Political partyIndependent (1995–present)
Other political
Polish United Workers' Party (1977–1990)
Social Democracy (1990–1995)
Democratic Left Alliance (1991-1995)
Left and Democrats (2007)
Europa Plus (2014)
(m. 1979)
ChildrenAleksandra Kwaśniewska
Alma materUniversity of Gdańsk
(Did not graduate)
See list
  • Order of the White Eagle Order of the Polonia Restituta Order of Vytautas the Great - Golden Chain Order of Vytautas the Great - Grand Cross Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas - Grand Cross Order of the Bath Order of St. Michael and St. George Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic Legion of Honour - Grand Cross Order of Saint Olav - Grand Cross OOrder of the Savior Order of the White Rose - Grand Cross Order of the Three Starts - Commander Cross of Recognition Order of Prince Jarosław the Wise Order of Merit of Ukraine - 1st Class Order of Loyalty to the Crown of Malaysia Order of the Dutch Lion - Grand Cross Order of the Double White Cross Order of Prince Henry - Grand Collar Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana - First Class Grand Star of the Decoration of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria - 1st Class Order of the Star of Romania - Grand Cross Order of Faithful Service - Grand Cross Order of Merit of Chile - Collar Order of Leopold - Grand Cross Order of the State of the Republic of Turkey Grand Order of King Tomisław Order of Isabella the Catholic - Sash of Collar Order of Meirt of Hungary - 1st Class Order of the Southern Cross - Grand Cross Order of Merit for Distinguished Service (Peru) Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany - Grand Cross Special Class Order of the White Star - 1st Class Order of Friendship - 1st Class Order of Chrysanthemums National Order of Merit Order of the White Lion - 1st Class Olympic Order - Gold Order of the Smile
WebsiteOfficial website

Aleksander Kwaśniewski (Polish pronunciation: [alɛˈksandɛr kfaɕˈɲɛfskʲi] (listen); born 15 November 1954) is a Polish politician and journalist. He served as the President of Poland from 1995 to 2005. He was born in Białogard, and during communist rule, he was active in the Socialist Union of Polish Students and was the Minister for Sport in the Communist government during the 1980s. After the fall of Communism, he became a leader of the left-wing Social Democracy of the Republic of Poland, a successor to the former ruling Polish United Workers' Party, and a co-founder of the Democratic Left Alliance.

Kwaśniewski was elected to the presidency in 1995, defeating the incumbent, Lech Wałęsa.[1] He was re-elected to a second and final term as president in 2000 in a decisive first-round victory. Although he was praised for attempting to further integrate Poland into the European Union, he faced criticism for involving the country in the Iraq War. His term ended on 23 December 2005, when he handed over power to his elected successor, conservative Lech Kaczyński.

Early political career (1973–1995)[edit]

From 1973–77, Kwaśniewski studied Transport Economics and Foreign Trade at the University of Gdańsk, although he never graduated. He became politically active at this time, and joined the ruling Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR) in 1977, remaining a member until it was dissolved in 1990.

An activist in the communist student movement until 1982, he held, among other positions, the chairmanship of the University Council of the Socialist Union of Polish Students (SZSP) from 1976–77 and the vice-chairmanship of the Gdańsk Voivodship Union from 1977–79. Kwaśniewski was a member of the SZSP supreme authorities from 1977–82.

Kwaśniewski (left) on Andrzej Tadeusz Kijowski's talk show in December 1994

From November 1981 to February 1984 he was the editor-in-chief of the communist-controlled student weekly ITD, then editor-in-chief of the daily communist youth Sztandar Młodych from 1984–85. He was a co-founder of the first computer-science periodical in Poland, Bajtek, in 1985. From 1985–87, Kwaśniewski was Minister for Youth Affairs in the Zbigniew Messner government, and then Chairman of the Committee for Youth and Physical Culture till June 1990.

He joined the government of Mieczysław Rakowski, first as a Cabinet Minister and then as chairman of the government Social-Political Committee from October 1988 to September 1989. A participant in the Round-Table negotiations, he co-chaired the task group for trade-union pluralism with Tadeusz Mazowiecki and Romuald Sosnowski.

As the PZPR was wound up, he became a founding member of the post-communist Social Democratic Party of the Republic of Poland (SdRP) from January to February 1990, and its first chairman until he assumed the presidency in December 1995. He was also one of the founding members of the coalition Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) in 1991.

Kwaśniewski was an activist in the Student Sports Union from 1975–79 and the Polish Olympic Committee (PKOL); he later served as PKOL president from 1988–91. Running for the Sejm from the Warsaw constituency in 1991, he won the largest number of votes (148,533), although did not win an absolute majority. Kwaśniewski headed the parliamentary caucus of the Democratic Left Alliance in his first and second terms (1991–1995).

He was a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and chairman of the Constitutional Committee of the National Assembly from November 1993 to November 1995.

Presidency (1995–2005)[edit]

Kwaśniewski receiving praises by supporters after his presidential victory in 1995

In an often bitter campaign, Kwaśniewski won the presidential election in 1995, collecting 51.7 percent of votes in the run-off, against 48.3 percent for the incumbent, Lech Wałęsa, the former Solidarity leader. Kwaśniewski's campaign slogans were "Let's choose the future" (Wybierzmy przyszłość) and "A Poland for all" (Wspólna Polska).

Political opponents disputed his victory and produced evidence to show that he had lied about his education in registration documents and public presentations. There was also some mystery over his graduation from university. A law court confirmed that Kwaśniewski had lied about his record—and this did not come to light until after the election—but did not penalise him for it. Kwaśniewski took the presidential oath of office on 23 December 1995. Later the same day, he was sworn in as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces at the Warszawa First Fighter Wing, in Mińsk Mazowiecki.

His political course resembled that of Wałęsa's in several key respects, such as the pursuit of closer ties to the European Union and NATO. Kwaśniewski also continued the transition to a market economy and the privatization of state-owned enterprises, although with less energy than his predecessor.

Hoping to be seen as "the president of all Poles", including his political opponents, he quit the Social Democratic Party after the election. Later, he formed a coalition with the rightist government of Jerzy Buzek with few major conflicts and on several occasions, he stood against movements of the Democratic Left Alliance government of Leszek Miller. At one moment, support for Kwaśniewski reached as high as 80% in popularity polls; most of the time it was over 50%.

In 1997, the Polish newspaper Zycie reported that Kwaśniewski had met former KGB officer Vladimir Alganov at the Baltic sea resort Cetniewo in 1994. First Kwaśniewski denied ever meeting Alganov and filed a libel suit against the newspaper. Eventually, Kwaśniewski admitted that he had met Alganov on official occasions, but denied meeting him in Cetniewo.[2]

Kwaśniewski's greatest achievement was his ability to bring about a new Constitution of Poland to replace the modified Stalinist document then still in use. The failure to create a new document had been a criticism often levelled at Wałęsa. Kwaśniewski actively campaigned for its approval in the subsequent referendum, and he signed it into law on 16 July 1997. He took an active part in the efforts to secure Polish membership of NATO.

He headed Poland's delegation at the 1997 Madrid summit, where Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary were promised membership; and the Washington summit, where on 26 February 1999, during the Kosovo conflict, which he supported, he signed the instruments ratifying Poland's membership of NATO. He also took an active part in promoting further enlargement of the alliance, speaking out in favor of membership for a further seven states and the open-door policy that leaves open the option of further members.

He was an author of the 2002 Riga Initiative, a forum for cooperation between Central European states, aimed towards further enlargement of NATO and the European Union.

An advocate of regional cooperation in Central and Eastern Europe, Kwaśniewski hosted a summit of the region's leaders at Łańcut in 1996. Speaking out against the danger organized crime posed to the region, he submitted a draft of a convention on fighting organised crime to the UN in 1996. He was an active participant at meetings of regional leaders in Portorož in 1997, Levoča in 1998, and Lviv and Yalta in 1999.

After a history of sometimes acrimonious relations with Lithuania, Kwaśniewski was a driving force behind the presidential summit in Vilnius in 1997, at which the two countries' presidents signed a treaty of friendship. Poland subsequently became one of the strongest advocates of Lithuanian membership in NATO and the European Union and the strongest advocate of Ukraine in Europe. In 2000 he was re-elected in the first round of voting, collecting 53.9 percent of the vote. His election campaign slogan was: "A home for all—Poland" (Dom wszystkich—Polska). On 23 December 2000, he took office for the second term.

Following the 11 September 2001 attacks, Kwaśniewski organized an international conference in Warsaw, with the participation of leaders from Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe to strengthen regional activities in fighting international terrorism. Under Kwaśniewski's leadership, Poland became a strong ally of the United States in the War on Terror and contributed troops in the Iraq War, a move that was highly controversial in Poland and Europe.

Poland was in charge of a sector of Iraq after the removal of Saddam Hussein. Polish membership of the European Union became a reality on 1 May 2004, during Kwaśniewski's second term. Both he and his wife Jolanta had campaigned for approval of the EU accession treaty in June 2003. He strongly supported including mention of Europe's Christian roots into the European Constitution.[3][4] Thanks to his close relations with Leonid Kuchma, in late 2004 he became a mediator in a political conflict in Ukraine – the Orange Revolution, and according to some commentators, he played the major role in its peaceful solution.

After the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture in December 2014, Kwaśniewski admitted that he had agreed in 2003 to host a secret CIA black site in Poland, but that activities were to be carried out in accordance to Polish law. He said that a U.S. draft memorandum had stated that "people held in Poland are to be treated as prisoners of war and will be afforded all the rights they are entitled to", but due to time constraints, the U.S. had not signed the memorandum. The U.S. had conducted activities in great secrecy at the site.[5]

Controversial pardons[edit]

In December 2005, when his presidency was coming to an end, he granted clemency for a post-Communist deputy minister of Justice Zbigniew Sobotka, who had been sentenced for 3.5 years of prison for revealing a state secret (effectively, he warned gangsters about an operation against them). Kwaśniewski changed the prison sentence to probation.[6][7][8]

Another case of Kwaśniewski's controversial granting of pardons was the Peter Vogel case. The story goes back to 1971 when Piotr Filipczyński, a.k.a. Peter Vogel was sentenced to 25 years in jail for a brutal murder (shortened to 15 years in 1979). Surprisingly enough, in 1983 (during martial law in Poland) he was granted a passport and allowed to leave the country. He returned in 1990 soon earning the nickname "the accountant of the Left" as a former Swiss banker who took care of more than thirty accounts of Polish social democrats. Despite an arrest warrant issued in 1987, Vogel moved freely in Poland and was eventually arrested in 1998 in Switzerland. After Vogel's extradition to Poland, in 1999 Kwaśniewski initiated the procedure of granting him amnesty. In December 2005 (a few days before leaving his office) Kwaśniewski pardoned Vogel despite the negative opinion of the procurer.[9][10]


Kwaśniewski refused in 2003 to face a special parliamentary commission,[11][12] which was set up to reveal all circumstances linked with Rywingate. Kwaśniewski argued, that the constitution did not allow parliamentary commissions to investigate the president, and there were no clear law opinions. The commission decided eventually not to summon Kwaśniewski.[13]

For a second time Kwaśniewski refused as a witness to face the commission investigating the privatization of Orlen petrol concern, in March 2005. He argued that the actions of commission members, being in opposition to the leftist government supported by him, were directed against him.[14] He sought to undermine the commission by releasing considerable amounts of information to journalists while only belatedly making it available to the commission members.[citation needed]

Member of secret police allegations[edit]

In 2007, IPN revealed that Kwaśniewski was registered during communist times as an agent "Alek" of the secret police, the Security Service (Służba Bezpieczeństwa – SB), from 1983 to 1989. Kwaśniewski himself denied having been an agent in a special statement, demanded from politicians by Polish law, and a court confirmed his statement.[15]


On 7 March 2006, Kwaśniewski was appointed Distinguished Scholar in the Practice of Global Leadership at Georgetown University, where he teaches students in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service about contemporary European politics, the trans-Atlantic relationship, and democratization in Central and Eastern Europe. He also teaches a course on political leadership, convened by Professor Carol Lancaster, with former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar.[16] He is also Chairman of the supervisory board of the International Centre for Policy Studies in Kiev, Ukraine and a member of the International Honorary Council[17] of the European Academy of Diplomacy.

In 2008 Aleksander Kwaśniewski became Chairman of the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation, a not-for-profit organization established to monitor tolerance in Europe, prepare practical recommendations to governments and international organisations on improving interreligious and interethnic relations on the continent. The organization is co-chaired by European Jewish Fund President Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor.

Since June 2012 Kwaśniewski and Pat Cox lead a European Parliament monitoring mission in Ukraine to monitor the criminal cases against Yulia Tymoshenko, Yuriy Lutsenko and Valeriy Ivaschenko.[18]

Since 2011, Kwaśniewski has served on the Leadership Council for Concordia, a nonpartisan, nonprofit based in New York City focused on promoting effective public-private collaboration to create a more prosperous and sustainable future.

Kwaśniewski was also involved with the EU talks with the Ukrainian government about the association agreement with the EU that the Ukrainian parliament failed to ratify in November 2013.[19] After the Maidan unrest had installed the transitional government under Yatsenyuk, who signed the EU association agreement for Ukraine in 2014, Kwaśniewski took up in a director's post in the gas company ″Burisma Holdings Limited″ which owns licenses for the major Ukrainian gas fields.[20]

Possible illegal lobbying on behalf of Paul Manafort[edit]

In a plea agreement filed in United States Federal court on 14 September 2018, former Donald Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort admitted to organizing a group of former European heads of state to illegally lobby, starting in 2011, on behalf of then-Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. The plea agreement describes one of the heads of state involved in this secret lobbying as a "former Polish President" who "was also a representative of the European Parliament with oversight responsibility for Ukraine."[21] At least one press report claimed that Kwaśniewski was this former Polish President.[22]


Aleksander Kwaśniewski during the 2013 European Economic Forum

Aleksander Kwaśniewski has been honored to date with the following decorations:

President Kwaśniewski greets President of the U.S. George W. Bush.

Personal life[edit]

In 1979, Kwaśniewski married lawyer Jolanta Konty in a civil ceremony. They have one child: a daughter, Aleksandra (born 1981).[citation needed]

He identifies as an atheist.[28][29][30][31] In 2005, at the end of his second presidential term, the couple finalised their marriage in a low-key Catholic ceremony presided by Kwaśniewski's former presidential chaplain, in the presidential chapel.[32][33][34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Aleksander Kwaśniewski, Polish politician at Encyclopaedia Britannica.
  2. ^ East European Constitutional Review Archived 2 September 2006 at the Wayback Machine. Volume 6 Number 4. Fall 1997.
  3. ^ Evans-Pritchard, Ambrose (4 June 2003). "Atheist premier attacks lack of Christianity in EU constitution". Archived from the original on 17 April 2004. Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  4. ^ "Wywiady zagraniczne – Rok 2003 – NRC Handelsblad, 27 września 2003 r." (in Polish). 2003. Archived from the original on 29 October 2005.
  5. ^ Matthew Day (10 December 2014). "Polish president admits Poland agreed to host secret CIA 'black site'". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 17 December 2014.
  6. ^ "Kwaśniewski ułaskawił Sobotkę" [Kwaśniewski pardoned Sobotka]. Gazeta Wyborcza (in Polish). 17 December 2005. Archived from the original on 31 December 2006.
  7. ^ "Zbigniew Sobotka ułaskawiony" [Zbigniew Sobotka pardoned]. (in Polish). 16 December 2005. Archived from the original on 24 February 2012.
  8. ^ Marek Chodakiewicz. "The Institute of World Politics > News & Publication > Dr C: Kwasniewski's chekist service killed his chance to head UN". Archived from the original on 17 March 2007. Retrieved 3 September 2020. Likewise, in December 2005, Kwasniewski pardoned the post-Communist deputy minister of Justice Zbigniew Sobotka, who had warned gangsters about a planned police operation against them. Sobotka was convicted and sentenced to jail but the presidential pardon freed him.
  9. ^ The institute of world politics Archived 17 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved on 1 January 2007
  10. ^ Indulski, Grzegorz; Rigendinger, Balz (8 January 2006). "Kasjer Vogel". Wprost (in Polish).
  11. ^ Hadaj, Marcin (June 2003). "Poland: Paper Chase". World Press Review. Vol. 50, no. 6.
  12. ^ "Endgame Sans President". The Warsaw Voice. 10 July 2003. Archived from the original on 22 August 2003.
  13. ^ Pijaczyński, Marcin (1 July 2003). "Prezydent odetchnął". (in Polish). Archived from the original on 19 July 2011.
  14. ^ "Prezydent nie stanie przed komisją" [President will not stand before the commission]. (in Polish). 7 March 2005.
  15. ^ "Kwaśniewski oszukiwał nawet esbeków". (in Polish). 27 September 2007. Archived from the original on 5 March 2009.
  16. ^ "Former Polish President Joins SFS Faculty". Archived from the original on 17 March 2006. Retrieved 8 March 2006.
  17. ^ "Aleksander Kwaśniewski". Archived from the original on 2 February 2014. Retrieved 19 September 2012.
  18. ^ Ukraine welcomes prolongation of Cox-Kwasniewski mission until fall, says Kozhara, Interfax-Ukraine (18 April 2013)
    Cox-Kwasniewski mission to visit Ukraine in late March, planning to visit Tymoshenko, Interfax-Ukraine (19 March 2013)
  19. ^ "After Kyiv Snub, Kwasniewski Says EU-Ukraine Deal Is Off". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 21 November 2013.
  20. ^ "Board of Directors". Archived from the original on 14 May 2014. Retrieved 19 May 2014.
  21. ^ "Re: United States vs. Paul J. Manafort, Jr" (PDF). Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  22. ^ "Prosecutors expose dark arts of Manafort lobbying". Archived from the original on 10 December 2022. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  23. ^ Volks krant, State visit of Netherlands in Poland, 1997, Photo with Queen Beatrix Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ "Semakan Penerima Darjah Kebesaran, Bintang, dan Pingat Persekutuan". Archived from the original on 19 July 2019. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
  25. ^ Slovak republic website, State honours Archived 13 April 2016 at the Wayback Machine: 1st Class received in 1997 (click on "Holders of the Order of the 1st Class White Double Cross" to see the holders' table)
  26. ^ Belgian royal official site, Gala dinner, Group photo of President, his wife and the Royal Family
  27. ^ "Dostluk İlişkilerine Katkının Altın Sembolü: Devlet ve Cumhuriyet Nişanları (Turkish) - The Gold Symbol Contribution of Friendly Relations: State and Republic Orders". February 2013. Retrieved 1 August 2013.
  28. ^ "I am an atheist and everybody knows it..." Atheist premier attacks lack of Christianity in EU constitution, by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, The Telegraph, 4 June 2003.
  29. ^ "Polish president wins second term". BBC News. 9 October 2000. Retrieved 23 April 2010.
  30. ^ "A PiS Take". The Warsaw Voice. 4 January 2006.
  31. ^ Beata Pasek (2000). "Ex-communist Kwasniewski wins second term as Polish president". The Independent. Kwasniewski had maintained a commanding lead in opinion polls, despite Solidarity attack ads that included video of him and an aide appearing to mock Polish-born Pope John Paul II in 1997. Poland is an overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country, and Kwasniewski is an atheist.
  32. ^ "Tajny ślub Kwaśniewskich". (in Polish). Nowości: Dziennik Toruński. 6 January 2006. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  33. ^ "Kwaśniewscy wzięli ślub kościelny". (in Polish). Gazeta Wyborcza. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  34. ^ "Kwaśniewscy razem już od 30 lat! A ślub brali dwa razy". (in Polish). Fakt. 20 December 2009. Retrieved 1 May 2019.

External links[edit]

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New political party Democratic Left Alliance nominee for President of Poland
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Preceded by Labour Union nominee for President of Poland
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