President marks 40th anniversary of Polish trade union Solidarity

President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw on Wednesday met a Solidarity union delegation to mark the union's 40th anniversary. At the meeting Duda said the union was the most important social organisation in Polish history.

"Solidarity is the most important social (...) organisation to be founded in the history of the Republic. It is an organisation that is peaceful in character, an organisation which primarily responds to immensely important basic needs, like the need for freedom, as such. Because, after all, Solidarity was born in a country which was not fully free. It was not a fully sovereign and independent country, and people wanted this freedom very much. This is the reason for their mass-scale membership in Solidarity," Duda told gathered members of the Solidarity union's National Committee.

Duda said that Poles owed their freedom to the union, and stressed that this was especially true for his generation.

"We, and especially my generation, owe our freedom to the people of Solidarity. My generation was in its childhood when Solidarity was being founded, they watched it happen and remember, but did not take participate directly because they were too young. The generation of our children, my daughter, lives in a free Poland today thanks to your struggle, determination and, not infrequently, suffering," Duda said.

He added that he had no doubt that the Solidarity union with its history and ideals "is and always will be necessary."

Solidarity leader Piotr Duda said that the past 40 years marked the union's successful battle for employee and union rights.

"These forty years marked a chain of successes, but also of battles for employee and union rights. (...) It is very important for us to be able to say with pride that forty years have passed - maybe not like one day, because these were difficult days, weeks, months and years (...), but we were many times a driving force of change, not only in labour laws, but in many spheres of our country's economy," Piotr Duda said.

The participants in the ceremony also honoured the union's deceased members with a minute of silence.

The Solidarity Trade Union was established following the Gdansk Agreements, signed on August 31, 1980, which ended a wave of strikes in Pomerania and were the second of a series of accords between striking workers and the communist government. Solidarity was the first legal trade union organisation in the communist countries that was independent of the authorities.