WASHINGTON — President Reagan, responding to pleas from church and trade union leaders, lifted economic sanctions against Poland on Thursday but warned the Warsaw government not to retreat on political reforms.
"We will be watching to see that further steps are taken toward national reconciliation in Poland and that the progress made is not reversed," Reagan said in a statement.
The Polish government estimates its economy has lost $15 billion because of Western sanctions imposed after the martial-law crackdown on the Solidarity trade union in December, 1981.
However, critics claim Warsaw's leaders used the sanctions as an excuse for the country's poor economy.
"The present regime in Poland uses the sanctions as a crutch and it's high time that we kicked the crutch away and let them stand on their two feet and not blame (the United States for) what's happening to the economy," said Aloysius Mazewski, president of the Chicago-based Polish-American Congress and a guest at the White House for Reagan's announcement.
The last remaining U.S. sanctions against Poland were the denial of "most-favored-nation" tariff treatment and a ban on U.S. credits and guarantees.
Welcomed in Warsaw
In Warsaw, the Polish government welcomed the news "with satisfaction." Spokesman Jerzy Urban asserted the measures "brought considerable harm to Polish society" and said, "We regard the lifting of sanctions as a starting point toward further improvement in Polish-American relations."
In Gdansk, scene of the violent strikes that prompted the 1981 crackdown, Solidarity founder Lech Walesa hailed the decision by Reagan as "an expression of wise and long-range support for the aspiration, program and ideals of Solidarity."
A senior Administration official, briefing reporters on condition he not be identified, said that while trade tariffs will be lowered for Polish goods Warsaw will have to hold its own in a very competitive market.
'No Manna From Heaven'
As for the lifting of the ban on credits and guarantees, the official said, "there will be no manna from heaven flowing from this decision."
Poland already owes the United States more than $2 billion in guaranteed credits that it is unable to repay.
In lifting the sanctions, Reagan noted the lifting of martial law in Poland in 1983 and the release of thousands of political prisoners in a series of amnesties. Since last September, no one has been arrested on political charges, he said.
"Yet there is still far to go," Reagan said. "The threat of arrest still hangs over those who seek their freedom. The right to genuinely independent trade unions is still stifled.
"Independent political activity continues to be repressed by various governmental measures," the President added. "National reconciliation remains a dream, a goal for the future, rather than a reality of today."
Reagan pledged, "We will be watching to see that further steps are taken toward national reconciliation in Poland and that the progress made is not reversed. . . .
"Our relations with Poland can only develop in ways that encourage genuine progress toward national reconciliation in that country," he said.
The President said that "significantly, the leaders of Solidarity and of the (Roman) Catholic Church in Poland agree that this is the right course for us to take."