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Polish Politician Bronislaw Geremek Dies In Crash

European Parliament

Bronislaw Geremek MEP: European humanist and leading Polish politician dies

Professor Bronislaw Geremek MEP, a major figure in the contemporary history of his native Poland and of Europe, died 13 July, aged 76. "This is a sad day for the European Parliament" - its President Hans-Gert Pöttering said on learning of the news. Mr Geremek was a leading figure in the anti-Communist Solidarity movement and later served as Poland's Foreign Minister. Elected to the European Parliament in 2004 he served on both the Foreign and Constitutional Affairs Committees.

Mr Pöttering went on to say: "we got to know him as a wise man of outstanding knowledge and as a great colleague. Professor Geremek was a true European and a great Polish patriot".

Graham Watson - the leader of the ALDE political group to which Mr Geremek belonged - said that Poland had lost "one of its heroes, a tireless architect of its independence but also of national reconciliation". He went on to say that "Europe has also lost one of its most ardent proponents who by the power of his conviction helped enlargement become a political success. Europe mourns a symbol of its reunification" said Mr Watson. He called Mr Geremek "a humanist who will serve as an example for generations to come".

Historian then Solidarity dissident

Bronislaw Geremek was born in Warsaw in March 1932. As a child during World War II he survived the Warsaw Ghetto by escaping to safety. A medievalist historian by training, he was honoured by Universities around the world and was the author of numerous publications.

From the late 1970's he was active in the clandestine opposition to the communist regime of Poland. He was one of intellectuals who joined the strikers at the Gdansk shipyard, birthplace of the Solidarity movement in 1980. He was interned for one year under martial law in 1981, and imprisoned again in 1983. Upon his release he immediately resumed political activity. He was later one of the architects of the new political regime of Poland after the fall of communism in 1989.

Successively a member of the Polish Parliament, president of several parliamentary committees and co-founder of the Democratic Union, he was Foreign Minister from 1997 to 2000. Poland joined NATO during his tenure and made great progress towards EU membership.

A European figure

Bronislaw Geremek was a convinced European. Since 2002 he held the Chair of European civilization at the College of Europe in Warsaw. In June 2004, with Poland's accession to the EU, he was elected a member of the European Parliament. Speaking in early July - in what would be his last speech in Strasbourg - he told the House that "I am among those who believe in the power of ideas and European institutions". At the time of his death he was co-authoring a book entitled "Visions of Europe".

In Poland, Europe and internationally, he espoused the same values: democracy, freedom and justice, a world without political prisoners.

Mr. Geremek died on Sunday in a car crash in western Poland en-route to Brussels where he was due to participate in a series of meetings.

REF.: 20080714STO34077


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