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Polish Statesman Geremek Killed in Car Crash


Former Polish Foreign Minister Bronis?aw Geremek, a veteran of the anti-communist movement of the 1980s, has been killed in a car crash in southwestern Poland.

Police say Geremek's Mercedes collided Sunday with a van near Krakow.

The 76-year-old Geremek, renowned in Europe as a scholar and a statesman, served as foreign minister from 1997 to 2000, overseeing Poland's entry into NATO.

Geremek quit Poland's ruling communist party in 1968, to protest the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia that crushed a popular uprising. He later became a close advisor to Lech Walesa and the independent Solidarity trade union. The union negotiated a power-sharing deal with authorities in 1989, widely seen as leading to the end of nearly five decades of communist rule.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso Sunday said Geremek will be remembered as "one of the most powerful symbols" of freedom from oppression.

Geremek's public profile rose again in 2007, as controversy swirled in Poland about a new vetting law aimed at exposing those suspected of collaborating with communist-era police.

Critics, including Geremek and former President Walesa, denounced the law for effectively creating a ministry of truth they said left Polish citizens vulnerable to the threat of smear campaigns.

Poland's constitutional court later ruled most of the vetting law as unconstitutional. The ruling rejected a clause which would have made it mandatory for nearly 700,000 Poles to sign declarations certifying that they had never collaborated with the secret services under the old regime.

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