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.