15 November 2004

In Poland, like elsewhere in this highly hierarchical world, government ministers have to know their limits. If a prominent international job is to be had, why not the President. And if former presidenta are desperately seking merely ceremonial assignments as U.N. Special Representatives, why shouldn't a sitting president go for the real thing. So, President Kwasniewski informed the public, courtesy of Polish television, that "some officials from various countries" had approached him about "a replacement" to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. He did not clarify whether he was offering himself for the task or merely suggesting a search for a candidate. Maybe he was testing the waters. Maybe he was putting down -- or up -- his Foreign Minister. Our friend Wlody would never know. It is not easy deciphering the Warsaw terminology. The only one who mastered it managed to stay with all governments of every ideology and remains with us today, as polite and correct as ever. But that is a unique talent which even Chopin could not match. Anyway, the hyperactive Polish President seemed to indicate his own conditions for accepting the job -- just in case it was offered.

First and foremost, there was need for reform. Now, that revelation alone should qualify him. But there is more. "Everyone wants to talk but no one wants to listen," he complained. Again, it was not clear whether he wanted to listen or to talk. Listening could be easier. Talking will require at least one working language -- English or French. He could, of course, use one of the six official ones -- Russian. But that will remind sensitive listeners of an era which is better forgotten. Now is the time of the politically correct open markets, democratic values, and participating civil societies.

There remains one suggestion and one request. If you have any skeletons in the closet, Tavarish Alex, hang them out. As we advised your other compatriot, Permanent Members of the Security Council love candidates whose nuts are in their vaults. And, should you ever make it, we request that you bring back your compatriot from his challenging mission in Cyprus. His mother's cookies are worth it.