27th May 2017

Polish Solidarity leader Geremek dies in car accident

  • Bronislaw Geremek, Polish MEP, historian and former dissident has died at the age of 76 (Photo: Bronislaw Geremek office)

Polish Solidarity leader Bronislaw Geremek, one of the key figures of Poland's transition to democracy, an ex-chief of diplomacy for the country and member of the European Parliament died in a car crash on Sunday (13 July), aged 76.

The accident happened in early afternoon in Lubien, western Poland, where Professor Geremek's car ran into the opposing lane and crashed into another automobile, killing the politician instantly. Two others were injured and taken to hospital.

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The news brought messages of condolence as well as praise of the Polish prominent figures from all corners of Europe.

"With an immense grief and deep pain I received reports about a sudden death of Professor Bronislaw Geremek," reacted European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, adding he wished that the future generations would live up to the example of Mr Geremek as a symbol of free-spiritedness and the fight for freedom.

The European Parliament's chief, Hans Gert Poettering, said Mr Geremek proved that it is possible to be close to one's home country but at the same time close to Europe.

"Even with the passage of time, his memory will never be erased, nor his marvelous and mischievous smile obscured," commented Graham Watson, the leader of the Liberal group in the EU legislature of which Professor Geremek was a member after Poland joined the bloc in 2004.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy referred to Mr Geremek as a "great actor of European construction and a re-unification of the continent."

In the 1970s, Bronislaw Geremek was considered one of the leading figures in the Polish democratic opposition, and in 1980, he joined the Gdansk workers' protest movement and became an active supporter of the trade union, Solidarnosc (Solidarity), for which he was imprisoned several times.

In 1989, he played a key role in negotiations between Solidarity and the communist authorities to agree on conditions for carrying out free parliamentary elections in Poland, ending the undemocratic era in the country.

As a founder of the Democratic Union party, which later merged into the Freedom Union, Geremek was first an elected member of the lower house of the Polish parliament, the Sejm, and between 1997 to 2000, he served as Poland's foreign minister, where he oversaw the country's adhesion to NATO.

After his country's entry in the European Union, Bronislaw Geremek became a member of the bloc's parliamentary assembly.

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