PRESS RELEASE:
CEEC briefed by President Bush

Polish American Congress, Washington DC - Oct. 24, 2007 -- On Friday October 24, Frank J. Spula, president of the Polish American Congress, was one of the several leaders of the Central and Eastern European Coalition who met with President George W. Bush at the White House to discuss critical issues affecting the region.

The group was also briefed by senior White House officials who discussed the importance of NATO and its expansion in the region. Their presentation, however, was interrupted when President Bush entered the State Dining Room where the meeting was being held.

After Bush greeted everybody individually, he began by offering the audience his views on NATO and its transformative effective on the countries of the region. After his formal presentation, President Bush asked for questions.

Spula was the first guest to step up to the plate. He congratulated the President and his staff for what they have so far been able to accomplish regarding NATO and extending the Visa Waiver Program in the region. However, Spula asked, in the context of that progress, when would Poland, one of the U.S.'s most steadfast allies, be included as a favored nation in the Program?

Bush responded that the decision really rested with the US Congress, given that the seven countries admitted to the program a week earlier had all met congressionally-mandated requirements. Poland did not. "And we were not going to fudge the deal," the President added.

Bush added that he was confident that such action regarding Poland would occur in the near future. "It will be done. Sadly enough, it was not done this time for Poland."

In a follow-up question, Michael Sawkiw of Ukrainian Congress Committee of America asked Bush about the U.S. presidential transition and how the White House plans to make the chief executive handoff as "seamless" as possible regarding issues of Central and Eastern Europe.

Bush replied that White House staff was already working to ensure a smooth outcome even during this politically charged time. Bush said he stood ready to advise the new chief executive on those issues of greatest importance to the region.

White House senior staff attending the meeting included Barry Jackson, Assistant to the President for Strategic Initiatives and External Affairs and Kurt Volker, United States Ambassador to NATO, both of whom briefed the group. Also in attendance were Stephen Hadley, National Security Advisor; Judith Ansley, Deputy National Security Advisor; Damon Wilson, Adam Sterling, and Maria Germano of the National Security Council, and Vanessa Beebe from the Office of Public Liaison.

The briefing was organized exclusively for the senior leadership of the CEE Coalition member organizations. Dr. Barbara B. Andersen, the director of research at the PAC Washington D.C. Office, accompanied Spula in the meeting.

Following the briefing, Spula, Andersen and other CEE attended a ceremony in which Bush signed the NATO Protocols of Accession for Albania and Croatia.

Spula expressed his pleasure at being able to push such an important issue to Polonia like the visa waiver program at the meeting with Bush. "Democracy," he said, "sometimes works best when it is face-to-face."


The Polish American Congress is a member, and one of the co-founders, of the Coalition.

 
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