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Statement on Signing the Support for East European Democracy (SEED) Act of 1989

November 28, 1989

I have today signed H.R. 3402, the "Support for East European Democracy (SEED) Act of 1989." This legislation authorizes $938 million in assistance to promote democratization in Poland and Hungary. It authorizes various programs to help promote reform in these countries, including economic stabilization, trade liberalization, Enterprise Funds to nurture private sector development, labor market reform, and enhanced environmental protection.

We are nearing the end of a year that future generations will remember as a watershed, a year when the human spirit was lifted and spurred on by the bold and courageous actions of two great peoples -- the people of Poland and Hungary.

The year began with the first session of the Roundtable discussions in Poland. In April the Polish Communist Party reached an agreement with Solidarity that led to elections in June. Although not all of the seats of the Parliament were open to free elections, the Polish people succeeded in voicing their opinion -- and in remaking the political map of Poland. The end result was the first non-communist-led government in Eastern Europe since 1948. This government has continued to transform Polish society. A new economic program, which holds the promise of converting Poland into a market economy, has been put forward.

Events in Hungary have also stirred the imagination of the world. In May, Hungary decided to tear down the barbed-wire fence that separated it from the West. In September, Hungary gained the support of the entire world with its decision to honor its international commitments and allow East Germans to pass through its borders on their way to the West. More recently, Hungary has dropped virtually all of the trappings of a Stalinist state -- a new constitution based on democratic principles was adopted, the name of the country was changed from the "People's Republic" to simply the "Republic of Hungary," and the ruling Communist Party dissolved itself to create a vastly different and much smaller Socialist Party, which must compete with all the other parties for the votes of the Hungarian people. On November 26, Hungary held a referendum to determine the timing of free presidential elections. Contested parliamentary elections will be held no later than next summer. These elections hold the promise of transforming Hungary politically just as the elections in Poland transformed that country.

The United States has not been an idle bystander to these events. In April, in Hamtramck, Michigan, I announced a series of steps designed to support political and economic reform in Poland and to help Poland help itself. Since that time my Administration has been working closely with the Congress, and I am gratified to see many of the measures proposed contained in this legislation.

In July I visited Poland and Hungary to meet with their leaders and to see for myself the changes occurring in these two countries. During those visits, I had the opportunity to address a joint session of the Polish Parliament and to speak on political and economic reform to a large group at the Karl Marx University in Budapest. I announced a series of steps designed to further demonstrate U.S. support for the ongoing reform efforts in Poland and Hungary. My Administration has been working vigorously since that time to implement the measures I announced. Where legislation was not needed, we have moved forward. This legislation, signed into law today, will allow us to implement the remaining measures. We plan to move forward as quickly as possible to put these measures in place.

This legislation contains one other measure I requested in October -- the authorization for a contribution to a Stabilization Fund in response to a request from the Polish Government. I applaud the Congress for responding to this request in such an expeditious fashion. We are now working with our major Allies and the G - 24 -- the group established by the Paris Summit to coordinate aid for Poland and Hungary -- to obtain the additional financing needed for this Fund.

The passage of this legislation marks a major and positive step in bipartisan foreign policy. The national consensus for support for Poland and Hungary has been strong. The Congress has crafted a bill responsive to my requests, as well as providing a number of additional programs, all designed to support our national goal: to help further the cause of political and economic freedom in Poland and Hungary.

It is particularly gratifying that this measure comes before me at this time. The peaceful revolution that has taken place in Poland is the work of many people. However, one man, Lech Walesa, stands above all others in this regard. He kept the faith through the dark years of martial law. He saw the opportunities of the Roundtable and committed himself and his organization to this historic process. Recently he spoke to a joint session of the Congress. It is only appropriate that, as I sign this measure, we pay tribute to Lech Walesa.

Finally, I note that several sections of the Act direct that various executive agencies shall cooperate in specified ways with foreign officials, and that specified goals shall be pursued in our bilateral relations with certain countries or in multilateral fora. Keeping with past practice, I shall treat these provisions as advisory, not mandatory. I believe that this interpretation also comports with the Congress's express recognition of the need for "maximum flexibility" in implementing the provisions of this Act.

Other sections of the Act also require the President to submit reports that include his recommendations for appropriate levels of various types of assistance for Poland and Hungary. The Constitution grants exclusively to the President the power to recommend for the consideration of the Congress such measures as he judges necessary and expedient. Because the Congress may not by law command the President to exercise in particular circumstances the power that the Constitution commits to his judgment, such provisions have always been treated as advisory rather than mandatory.

George Bush

The White House,

November 28, 1989.

Note: H.R. 3402, approved November 28, was assigned Public Law No. 101 - 179.

George Bush, Statement on Signing the Support for East European Democracy (SEED) Act of 1989 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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