May 12th 2023

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Lech Walesa at MCI

Distinguished Guest at Entrepreneurial School® | former President of the Republic of Poland (1990-1995) on peace, freedom, democracy & the future of Europe

©MCI / Anna Geisler
©MCI / Anna Geisler

Together with the German Circle of Friends of the Universities in Innsbruck, the Entrepreneurial School® managed to bring a high-profile guest to Innsbruck: the Polish Nobel Peace Prize laureate and first democratically elected president explained possible future solutions for Europe in a moderated live talk.

A will for change

As a strike leader and co-founder of Solidarnosc, the first independent trade union movement in the soviet area, Walesa paved the way for the democratization of Poland in the 1970s and 80s and, according to his own statement, ultimately for the collapse of the Soviet Union. He wants to pass on this will for change to today's leaders and above all to young people. The goal, he says, is to convince populations like those in China or Russia, countries that are pursuing a strategy of territorial growth, that the current system is not good for them - this requires strategic propaganda skills. However, Walesa believes that the conflicts can be solved politically and through diplomacy: "Solidarity has no tanks”.

Taking the initiative in the era of populism

The 79-year-old is also convinced that at least one state should play a leading political role in this process, because as a realist he considers a world completely without leadership to be dangerous. After all, the world has two major economic systems, communism and capitalism, and there is also the major problem of populism. Walesa warns: "We need objectivity at the negotiating table - emotions are better used on the soccer field.”

The initiative is necessary in any case: the young people in Europe have so much more education and financial resources at their disposal than he himself had at the time of his revolution, when he simply believed in what he was doing, says Walesa, adding: if he had had these opportunities back then, he probably would have received more than just one Nobel Prize.


Walesa also emphasizes that the road to unity and conflict resolution will be a long one. It is difficult, he says, to define the foundation that should unite us in globalization. Each country used to develop differently, and it is very hard to build something common on so many different foundations. However, he himself and his movement had fought for a long time (first still with weapons, then with strikes) - "we did not win immediately, but in the end solidarity emerged".

Focus on unity

Walesa is convinced: people should build on unity and extend the achievements of the past, not return to old-style independence. After all, he says, borders have led to being so different. "The world is so beautiful, but sometimes just badly governed." So new structures are needed, at the global and continental levels, he adds. "This is the direction we need to go! Let's not destroy the great opportunity Europe is facing!"



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