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Germany's Steinmeier chides Poland on democracy claims

A Polish claim that democracy has been "liquidated" in Germany has been dismissed by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. He's been visiting Warsaw to mark a friendship treaty signed 25 years ago.

Steinmeier said there was "no basis" to the remarks made by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the chairman of Poland's ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, in an interview with the Polish magazine "wSieci," which is close to the PiS government.

"Governments come and governments go," said Steinmeier on Tuesday while attending a German-Polish forum on democratic separation of powers on the 25th anniversary of the friendship treaty forged in 1991, just after German reunification.

Emerging from talks with Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski (pictured above, right), Steinmeier said there was "no basis for the claim that there was a dictatorship in the German parliament."

Polen Jaroslaw Kaczynski und Beata Szydlo

The PiS party leader Kaczynski is thought to call the shots in Beata Szydlo's government

Waszczykowski was quoted by the German news agency DPA as saying Kaczynki's remarks were a personal statement of opinion.

Democracy 'being liquidated'

Kaczynski - reacting to EU and German rebukes over constitutional changes pursued by his PiS since winning elections in Poland last year - had been quoted by the magazine on Monday as saying Germany had "problems" of its own in parliament.

"There, serious activities are emerging that indicate that (German) democracy is being liquidated," Kaczynski said.

As an example, he claimed that German Bundestag parliamentarians were "not allowed to do anything" without the approval of their superiors.

EU probe on PiS policies

In January, the European Commission began a probe into whether PiS' policies violate the bloc's democracy rules - the first such investigation into Polish politics.

Last Wednesday, the European Parliament condemned Polish government policies, saying judicial and constitutional changes sought by PiS endangered Polish democracy.

'Long way to fall'

Steinmeier on Tuesday also said there were reasons to celebrate the treaty under which German-Polish ties had developed to a high level.

It meant, however, that there was potentially a "long way to fall" if damage ensued, he said.

The anniversary was therefore a "test of maturity" to show that in politically difficult times it came down to contacts between individual persons, Steinmeier said.

As examples, Steinmeier cited the Ukraine-Russia conflict, Europe's migration debate and recent attacks in Paris and Brussels by Islamist militants.

Kaczynski, a former premier, currently holds no other elected position than that of a lawmaker in Poland's parliament. However, the chairman of the ruling PiS is widely seen as the man calling the shots in the government of Prime Minister Beata Szydlo.

ipj/msh (AFP, AP, dpa)

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