This story has been updated.
GDANSK, Poland -- Lech Walesa, the Nobel Prize winner and former Polish president, effectively endorsed Mitt Romney for president here Monday.
“I wish you to be successful because this success is needed to the United States, of course, but to Europe and the rest of the world, too. Governor Romney, get your success, be successful!” Walesa said through a translator following their joint meeting in Gdansk. He hit his handon the table for emphasis.
The favorable comments came as Romney began a visit to Poland at the end of an overseas trip that included stops in London and Jerusalem. Romney’s schedule on Monday also includes meetings with Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk.
Romney will also visit two monuments in Gdansk, honoring Polish soldiers who fought in World War II and the Solidarity movement.
Walesa, who led the Solidarity union movement during the struggle against Communist domination of the country, is reportedly not a fan of President Obama: He chose not to attend a group meeting with him when Obama visited Poland last year, and the White House did not invite him this year to a ceremony awarding a posthumous Presidential Medal Of Freedom to Jan Karski, a hero of the Polish resistance in World War II.
In reponse to Walesa’s apparent endorsement, Romney laughed and said: “Thank you so much. I appreciate your invitation and I’m glad to be here with you.”
Romney and Walesa met at the head of a wooden table and, following their private meeting, exchanged warm greetings through translators before a pool of reporters.
“You play such an important role on the world stage and you travel throughout the world, including Tunisia, and other parts of the world to describe the values of freedom which you champion here,” Romney told Walesa.
Walesa replied to Romney, “Poland and many other countries will certainly do their best for the United States to restore its leadership position. And after our conversation, I’m quite confident that you will be successful in doing that.”
The former president added, “Individuals who have struggled all their lives really favor the kind of views and perspectives that you share. Thank you very much for accepting my invitation and I wish you to be successful”
The Solidarity union quickly distanced itself from Walesa’s comments, releasing a statement saying that it “is in no way involved in the organization of this meeting...We have learned from our friends in the American trade union central AFL-CIO representing over 12 million workers about Mitt Romney’s support for the attacks against trade unions and labor rights.”
Dan Eggen in Washington also contributed to this story.