WARSAW, POLAND - Poland's president kicked off a year of celebrations for the country's 100th independence anniversary by praising the Polish government that is at odds with the European Union.
In a speech Tuesday before parliament, President Andrzej Duda also criticized the opposition, which seeks support from EU institutions as it condemns government policies that it says threaten democracy and European values. In a sign of discontent, opposition lawmakers brought white roses that opponents of the two-year-old government often carry during protest marches.
Duda said Poland's strength is in overcoming divisions and in charting its own, individual path.
As a large European nation, Poland should enjoy its full rights and be a "loyal and at the same time independent member" of NATO and of the EU, Duda said.
"Enough of this sense of dependence, of the uncertainty over whether we can follow our own path.Enough of this telling us that we cannot have our own sovereign goals and aspirations," he said.
Poland has been critical of many EU policies, saying they undercut decision-making in its 28 member states, and has been calling for a reform of the bloc. One major dispute is over Poland's refusal to accept migrants under an EU relocation plan.
He also said Poland needs new political and justice order, remarks seen as support for the deep changes to Poland's judiciary and electoral systems that the ruling party is pushing through parliament. The opposition says the aim is to consolidate the party's power grab.
The speech opened ceremonies that will lead to the 100th anniversary in November 2018 of Poland's regaining independence after World War II.
The ruling conservative Law and Justice party is focused on strengthening and promoting Poland's national identity.
The address also marked the date 150 years ago when the architect of an independent Poland and its military leader, Marshal Jozef Pilsudki, was born.
Viewed by critics as authoritarian and by supporters as Poland's most talented leader, Pilsudki shaped Poland's politics and foreign ties from 1918 until his death in 1935.