Polish ambassador Wojciech Gerwel writes to Việt Nam News to mark Poland’s Constitution Day (May 3)
This year Poland is celebrating the 230th anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution of May 3 – the second written act of this type in the world after the American Constitution. It was a momentous piece of legislation and an important reference point for further such acts internationally.
The Constitution of May 3 was even hailed as one of the first sources behind the idea of the European Union. For Poles, it is one of the most important events in the country’s history and a prominent symbol of successful co-operation in spite of differences.
The spirit of international co-operation that this anniversary evokes brings to mind also the achievements and potential of the longstanding close co-operation between Poland and Việt Nam.
Poland was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with Việt Nam in 1950. Poland was also the only country that took part in both international commissions on supervision and control in Việt Nam, following the Geneva Accords of 1954 and the Paris Peace Accords of 1973.
During the challenging times of war and post-war reconstruction, Poland implemented countless bilateral co-operation projects in Việt Nam, some of which have grown to symbolise Polish-Vietnamese friendship – for instance the Polish-Vietnamese Friendship High School in Hà Nội, the Polish-Vietnamese Friendship Hospital in Vinh, or the preservation and restoration of priceless monuments in Hội An, Huế and Mỹ Sơn. In fact, in 2021 we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the first arrival of Polish restoration specialists to Việt Nam, under the leadership of Kazimierz Kwiatkowski (“Kazik”), still one of the most celebrated foreigners to have lived and worked in Việt Nam.
Through generations of such efforts, a vibrant and prosperous Vietnamese community in Poland has grown to become one of the largest in Europe. The interpersonal bonds that have arisen between our two nations over the past seven decades constitute a solid foundation for the development of our relations in the future. Today Poland and Việt Nam co-operate on many levels – political, economic, cultural, scientific, and educational.
Mutual contacts have been maintained at every political level, even in spite of adverse conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, on April 20, there took place a telephone conversation between the Polish and Vietnamese ministers of foreign affairs. Last year, we celebrated the 70th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations with a Polish painting exhibition at the Vietnamese National Museum of Fine Arts in Hà Nội. In November 2020, political consultations were held online at the level of deputy foreign ministers, and the ministries of finance of Poland and Việt Nam signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the field of taxation and public finance.
Despite the pandemic and the global economic crisis, the value of our economic exchange has also been gradually increasing.
According to Polish statistics, trade turnover between Poland and Việt Nam in 2020 reached US$3.7 billion. For comparison, in 2019 it amounted to $3.5 billion, and in 2018, $3.3 billion. The EU-Việt Nam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), which entered into force in August last year, also offers great opportunities for further development of mutual economic relations.
This positive dynamic would not have been possible without the interpersonal ties that stem from the many years of co-operation in the field of tertiary education. More than 4,000 Vietnamese students graduated from Polish universities between the 1950s and the end of the 1980s. Today, a growing number of Vietnamese students decide each year to undertake studies in Poland (mostly in English-language programmes). Some of them benefit from the pool of government scholarships and scholarship programmes offered by the National Agency for Academic Exchange, including Banach and Ulam scholarships. It is worth noting that in 2019 and 2020 Polish language courses have been launched at the University of Hà Nội and at the University of Mining and Geology in Hà Nội.
Poland and Việt Nam have shared a close and longstanding relationship. In Poland, we look forward to building on this rich tradition of close co-operation with Việt Nam in order to forge ever-closer bilateral ties in the years to come. VNS