In a joyful spring atmosphere, Poland celebrates one of its biggest national holidays, dating back to the 18th century. It preserves the memory of the government decree of May 3, 1791 or the document adopted as the Constitution of May 3. It was the first modern constitution in Europe and the second in the world — a milestone of legislation.
The legacy of the Constitution of May 3, the idea that formed the basis of the state, and its commitment to freedom and democracy are a strong European achievement. This year’s 230th anniversary of the creation of this constitution must be an inspiring holiday for the whole of Europe.
The enemies of freedom had recognized that the modern, liberal May 3 constitution posed a threat to them. Russia, with the support of Prussia, had waged a war over the constitution and has done everything in its power to destroy its achievements. Nevertheless, the work of the Polish constitution has survived.
Successive generations have been engrossed in the memory of groundbreaking system reforms, the soaring of thought and spirit, a revolution aimed at liberating modernization, citing the highest universal values. The legacy of the Constitution of May 3 is an integral part of the best European achievements. It is no coincidence that, in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, the Constitution of May 3 was mentioned as one of the first sources of ideas for the European Union.
I am convinced that we can still draw today from the ideology and legacy of the Polish constitution, with a view to further forms of European integration and possible future amendments to the European Treaties. The principle set out in the Constitution of May 3 must be inspiring: “All power in human society comes from the will of the people”.
The lack of democracy, the imperfect wording of civic representation in the management of European Union decisions – this is one of our most important common challenges (interestingly, the description of the tensions between democracy and the need to exercise meritocracy can also be found in the May Constitution records). Similarly, it sought ways to reconcile tradition and modernity — after all, it was a blend of the ideas of the Enlightenment and the nurturing of Christian values, recognized as the foundation of European unity.
It must be emphasized that the Government Decree of 1791 was guided by the principles which we still treat today as the foundations of European civilization and order: respect for human dignity, freedom, equality and, solidarity. This is the guidance of the axiological compass that we must never lose sight of.
That is why I share with you with great pride and joy the celebration of the 230th anniversary of the creation of the Constitution on 3 May. It is a great holiday for the Poles and Lithuanians, all the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe, who created the achievements of the past republic. It is also a common European holiday for all of us. Let it inspire an even better, more integrated Europe! Let this holiday — as the old song says — be the “dawn of May”!
Title image: Polish President Andrzej Duda. (source: gov.pl)