Romney praises Polish economy, liberty

July 31, 2012 at 10:41 AM
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WARSAW, Poland, July 31 (UPI) -- Presumptive Republican U.S. presidential nominee Mitt Romney pledged Tuesday U.S.-Polish relations would improve if he were elected president.

Meanwhile Romney campaign officials defended remarks Palestinians blasted as offensive that Romney made while he was in Israel as part of his three-country tour.

"I believe it is critical to stand by those who have stood by America," Romney said Tuesday in Warsaw. "Solidarity was a great movement that freed a nation. And it is with solidarity that America and Poland face the future."

While in Poland Romney visited several memorials, including one honoring the Warsaw uprising, the largest single revolt by the Jews during World War II and the first mass uprising in Nazi-occupied Europe.

"I, and my fellow Americans, are inspired by the path of freedom tread by the people of Poland," Romney said.

Americans and the world watched in awe as Lech Walesa led a peaceful protest against an oppressive regime that eventually led to democratic Poland, Romney said.

"Unfortunately, there are parts of the world today where the desire to be free is met with brutal oppression," the former Massachusetts governor said.

Romney held Poland as an example of economic success, saying it was a "shining example of the prosperity that economic opportunity can bring."

"Your nation has moved from a state monopoly over the economy, price controls and severe trade restrictions to a culture of entrepreneurship, greater fiscal responsibility, and international trade," he said. "As a result, your economy has experienced positive growth in each of the last 20 years. In that time, you have doubled the size of your economy. The private sector has gone from a mere 15 percent of the economy to 65 percent. And while other nations fell into recession in recent years, you weathered the storm and continued to flourish."

Romney repeatedly praised and expressed admiration for Poland's fight for democracy.

"In a turbulent world, Poland stands as an example, and a defender, of freedom," he said.

"It is for us, in this generation and beyond, to show all the world what free people and free economies can achieve for the good of all," he said.

Walesa invited Romney to Poland and Walesa essentially endorsed Romney's bid for the U.S. presidency. Romney also met with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

Meanwhile, after Palestinians criticized a Romney remark at a Jerusalem fundraiser that he saw the "power" of "culture" at work in the large disparity between Israeli and Palestinian living standards, Romney campaign chief strategist Stuart Stevens told the Los Angeles Times: "This is something he has said repeatedly. It's been covered by every news organization that's written about it."

"This was not in any way an attempt to slight the Palestinians and everyone knows that," Stevens told the newspaper.

Romney told donors about a "dramatically stark difference in economic vitality" between Israel and adjacent "areas managed by the Palestinian Authority," saying Israel's per capita gross domestic product was about $21,000, whereas that of Palestinian areas is "more like $10,000."

Israeli per capita GDP was $31,400 last year while Palestinians' per capita GDP was $1,500 in 2010, an April World Bank report said.

A number of leading Palestinians expressed outrage at Romney's contrast of Israeli and Palestinian standards of living.

"Oh my god, this man needs a lot of education," Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who negotiated the Oslo Accords with Israel, told the Times. "What he said about the culture is racism."

The "Israeli occupation" is "the reason" for the income disparity, Erekat said.

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