“True individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.” The words of Franklin D. Roosevelt which are as relevant today as ever they were, and the sentiment behind is clearly appreciated by Poland’s prime minister who has said that the focus of the government in 2018 will be to ensure the financial security of families.

Mateusz Morawiecki, who was speaking to public broadcaster TVP on Monday evening, said that the government would work to “ensure that there are as many well-paid jobs as possible.” Not only that but every effort would be made to guarantee “internal security in terms of both finances and the physical security of citizens.” The prime minister said that the government will also work to ensure “external security” by protecting the country’s borders, “in addition to guaranteeing security against various ideas and initiatives being proposed in the world around us by either the European Union or our other neighbours.”

It’s not entirely clear what these obviously dangerous ideas and initiatives might be, but anyone of intelligence with an interest in Poland will be able to make certain assumptions. It is, of course, self-evident that in 2018, a year which President Duda said in his New Year’s Eve address will be “an opportunity to rediscover the greatness of our history, to consolidate our national sense of identity and pride inspired by the outstanding achievements of past generations”, that the right ideas flourish and the wrong ones do not. After all, the wrong ideas may also be “the stuff of which dictatorships are made”, as the 1930s, for example, clearly demonstrated. Or, as Joseph Stalin said: “Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas.”

Be that as it may, Morawiecki said that one of the biggest challenges for the government this year, is to deal with the health service and the long running protests by doctors and the shortage of medical staff. These, he said, were a legacy of inadequate government policies over the previous 25 years. “We have a very imperfect medical system that needs to be improved and looked at in a slightly different way.” That is certainly a good idea.

Meanwhile, as already mentioned, the president’s idea is that 2018 be a year of national pride. Duda said that 2017 “has been a time of building a state that serves citizens – all of them, without exception, a time of reforms thanks to which state institutions and authorities operate in a transparent manner under greater democratic surveillance.”

The president stated that 2017 had been “marked by effective efforts to secure faster and more prudent development for Poland, and to make sure the fruits of this growth are fairly shared.” Thus “millions of Polish families” were feeling the effects of continuing economic growth and that the country’s “internal and external security is founded nowadays on solid foundations.” According to Duda, 2018 will be “a unique and exceptional year” for Poles, a year when the country will be celebrating the centenary of regaining independence.

In the president’s view 2018 will also be “a time for reflection: to ponder on what kind of Poland we want to bequeath to our children and grandchildren.” He encouraged Poles to “take part in a debate on the shape of our civic community” and to “decide together about the new constitution intended to serve modern times.” He made this appeal: “Let us forge our future with hope and confidence in our own potential, the same way our ancestors did – winning back the Polish state with their courageous struggle and their persevering effort.” And his conclusion: “Let us make it a year of our national pride, nurturing the sense of belonging to our civic community. Let us celebrate together the achievements made so far and let us work together to score new success. Let us be together in this unique time: here, at home and among our fellow citizens living abroad.”

And there is no doubt that greater civil engagement is also a good idea – the worst calamity for a young democracy is for cynicism to lead to apathy and an uninterested electorate, another ingredient of the stuff of dictatorship. Poland begins 2018 in a strong position and to harm it with the wrong ideas would be very sad.

May I wish you a happy new year.

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