Thursday

20th Jun 2019

Germany and Poland celebrate close ties

  • Bartoszewski: 'If someone had told me in 1941 ... I would have German friends one day, I would have called him mad' (Photo: mfa.gov.pl)

Polish and German leaders on Monday (27 April) celebrated close ties in the context of WWII memorials and the death of Polish statesman Wladyslaw Bartoszewski.

The meeting, in Warsaw, between German chancellor Angela Merkel and Polish PM Ewa Kopacz, as well as their cabinets, was the 13th in a series of bilateral “consultations”.

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  • Kopacz and Merkel said Russia sanctions should stay in place (Photo: premier.gov.pl)

Merkel said: “The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II is of particular importance and highlights how far Germany and Poland have travelled in the past 70 years”.

She paid tribute to Bartoszewski, who died on Friday aged 93, saying “he was a man of great wisdom … who always fought for reconciliation between Germany and Poland”.

Kopacz noted, citing Bartoszewski, that: “If we build relationships at European and multilateral level, we also have to consider the fundamental issue of bilateral relations”.

The late diplomat was Polish foreign minister between 2000 and 2001, but kept working in the ministry until his passing.

As a young man, he helped Jews to flee the Warsaw ghetto, but was later sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. He was also jailed twice, for almost 10 years, by Poland’s Communist authorities.

He's remembered, in part, for a speech in the Bundestag in 1995, the 50th anniversary of WWII, in which he apologised for Poland’s post-war expulsion of ethnic Germans.

He later said: “If someone had told me in 1941, while I was standing on the parade ground in Auschwitz, that I would have German friends one day, I would have called him mad”.

Merkel and Kopacz also discussed EU-Russia relations, the Mediterranean migrant crisis, and day-to-day bilateral issues.

Both politicians said the EU should maintain economic sanctions on Russia until it complies with the “Minsk” peace protocols.

They didn’t mention the Night Wolves - a club of Russian nationalist bikers who planned to cross through Poland to Germany this week.

But both Germany and Poland have denied them entry, with Polish border guards turning back a handful of bikers on the Belarusian border earlier in the day.

On migration, Merkel hailed Kopacz for her pledge to take in more refugees. But she noted there's “still a long way” before the EU agrees to change the “Dublin system”.

The Dublin regulation obliges the member state where a migrant first enters the EU to handle his or her asylum claim, resulting in a huge burden on Italy and Malta.

On bilateral issues, Merkel said she would do more to encourage young Germans to learn Polish “because there are many, many Poles who learn German”.

But she didn’t back down on a German law, which says road hauliers who transit Germany must be paid at least €8.50/hour.

Kopacz called it a “difficult” problem, which will have to be settled by an EU-level decision.

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