Poland marks 30th anniversary of Round Table talks

On February 6, 1989, the negotiations of the Round Table between the communist authorities and representation of the democratic opposition commenced.

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The Round Table was the results of negotiations between communists and part of the opposition which took place in August 1988, after the wave of strikes and social protests in Poland.

The talks took place at Viceregal Palace (today known as the Presidential Palace) in Warsaw. 54 representatives of the communist government and the opposition took part in the first session of negotiations. There were also observers from the Roman-Catholic and Lutheran churches. However, not all opposition groupings were at the Round Table, some of them considered it as treason of opposition ideas.

Although the talks were called “Round Table negotiations,” its participants met at this table only twice, during the first and final session.

Three negotiation teams were set to deal with major issues. The first concerned the trade union pluralism, the second was dealing with the economy and social policy and the third with political reforms. Some issues were discussed in a less formal atmosphere in Magdalenka, some 15 km south of Warsaw.

The agreement was signed on April 5, 1989. The partially free elections, which took place on June 4, included 65 percent of seats for governmental MPs and 35 percent chosen in the free elections. Next general elections were planned to be conducted in an entirely democratic way.

Moreover, the entirely free-elected Senate as the upper house of the parliament was implemented to the Polish system, as well as the President, elected by both houses of the Parliament.

The communist authorities also agreed to legalise the Solidarity trade union, to restore its weekly magazine “Tygodnik Solidarność” and to create an independent daily newspaper “Gazeta Wyborcza.”

Historians claim that the Round Table talks were one of the most important events of the process of the end of the communist regime in Poland. However, there are people contesting these negotiations, who say that they allowed communists to avoid responsibility for their reign in years 1944-1989.