24th Sep 2023

Polish PM ups ante in Germany war talk

The Polish government has compared modern Germany to the pre-WWII Weimar Republic, continuing the hostile rhetoric which erupted in the run-up to last week's EU summit and which shows no sign of abating ahead of next month's formal negotiations on a new treaty.

Reacting to a German newspaper remark about "the square root of the dead" - a reference to Polish claims that EU votes should take count of war losses - prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski issued a warning to Europe.

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  • Warsaw after Germany crushed an uprising in 1944 - how relevant is it today? (Photo: Wikipedia)

"Something bad is happening in Germany. As in historic days gone by when most Europeans were too afraid to talk, so it is today," he said on Tuesday's (26 June) "Sygnaly Dnia" national radio show.

"Speaking to the German authorities as the prime minister of Poland - I warn you not tolerate these kinds of things...This will lead to the worst, to misfortunes, which could hurt Europe but which would also hurt Germany."

The WWII talk began at the summit last week, when Warsaw said Germany should cede EU votes because it killed 6 million Poles between 1939 and 1945, in a line of argumentation seen as bizarre in most EU states.

But Polish-German tensions have been growing since the Kaczynski twins came to power in 2005, exploiting popular fears that Germany is using the EU to dominate Europe, seeking war reparations of its own and erasing WWII facts.

The German government has not hit back with harsh words in public. Government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm and foreign minster Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Monday both said it's time to cultivate "closer and friendly" relations.

But the German media is having a field day. On Tuesday, news man Tom Buhrow said on national TV that Poland is "feeding on its western neighbour" in reference to €60 billion of EU funds coming Warsaw's way by 2013.

A fresh poll for Polish daily Rzeczpospolita shows the situation is eating away at trust: 56 percent of Germans now say the Polish government has "anti-German" policies. The figure is 72 percent among people aged 60 years or more.

The EU - a post-war peace project - is used to historic rivalries, such as Anglo-French spats over free markets and Iraq. But the pain of living WWII memories gives the current row between the two major EU states a nasty edge.

Further EU treaty scraps brewing

Meanwhile, prime minister Kaczynski said Poland plans to go on fighting during intergovernmental treaty negotiations (IGC), formally opening next month. Speaking on the radio show, he recalled that the summit "agreed everything by word of mouth" but the deal must now be "executed."

One of Poland's summit achievements - the Ioannina Compromise, allowing a small minority of EU states to force the European Commission to retable legislative proposals after a "reasonable delay" - is under attack, the Polish leader explained.

"The dispute is whether this [the reasonable delay] is after three months or two years. We agreed two years," he said. "Two years is a long time. Any body who has this possibility [to delay EU moves] will be treated seriously."

Beyond the media jibes and the political posturing, some analysts predict that once the summit dust settles the new EU treaty settlement will help Poland lay its old worries to rest and get on with rebuilding its economy instead.

"Regardless of the awkward rhetoric of Polish leaders, they have paradoxically contributed to overcoming one of the most thorny issues in the country's European policy, the Nice syndrome and the fear of double majority," writes Pawel Swieboda, president of the demosEUROPA think tank, in a comment for EUobserver.

"It may now be easier to build a new political consensus on European issues. This should mean less poker and more chess from Poland in the future."


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