LECH Walesa's three-day state visit to France this week brought Poland's ``laborer-president'' to the heart of the Western Europe he wants so dearly his own country to join. Yet while both Poland and France have good reasons for wanting the former Soviet satellite to succeed in its swing to a market economy and thus to become a weightier partner for France on Europe's eastern flank, Mr. Walesa's visit was one more reminder of how difficult the transition will be.
With a beaming Walesa at his side, French President Fran,cois Mitterrand said the Polish president ``has a strong personality, which is not news to anyone, and I think he is capable of convincing the circles he will be meeting here.''
But when the Polish leader announced he was ``not satisfied'' with the fruits of his visit, which ended yesterday, he was undoubtedly referring to results he garnered not just from business leaders, but from political leaders as well.
Though Walesa takes home a ``treaty of friendship and solidarity'' enlisting France as an advocate of Poland's ambitions to join the European Community (EC), he got neither the debt reduction from the public sector, nor the interest in investment from the private sector, that he sought.
Walesa came seeking an 80 percent reduction in Poland's debt with France, which is the country's second-largest creditor. Instead, he got about 60 percent: 50 percent in actual debt erased and about $500 million more in investment credits.
HIS reception among business leaders was even less encouraging. France has fallen to seventh position in the list of Poland's trade partners. Of the 2,000 joint ventures created with foreign partners, France accounts for just under 5 percent: far behind Germany's 41 percent, but also behind Austria, Sweden, and the United States.
Germany's dominance in Poland's economic restructuring is a major reason Walesa was hoping for so much from his Paris visit.
``Poland is looking to counterbalance the weights it feels to the West and the East,'' says a source on East-West European relations at the Foreign Ministry here. ``They want to offset Germany economically, but they also seek reassurance on security with a troubled Soviet Union on the other side.''
The French-Polish treaty includes a clause guaranteeing immediate consultations in the event of a security crisis.
France's historic fears of being dominated by Germany provide incentive for helping Poland develop its independence. Despite the importance to Europe of the French-German partnership, the thorn France pressed into Germany's side last year over the Polish-German border issue is evidence of lingering French worries about Germany.