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Steinmeier calls for strong EU to face challenges

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has called for unity within the 28-member bloc in the face of turmoil and external security threats. German-Polish relations were also high on the agenda.

Steinmeier told his Polish counterpart, Witold Waszczykowski, at a meeting in Warsaw Thursday that Polish-German relations are critical for the EU, at a time when Poland is

facing international criticism

for allegedly undermining some of its democratic institutions.

Poland has also been very guarded about taking in refugees from the Middle East and hostile to EU-set refugee quotas, issues the two ministers also discussed.

"Germany and Poland have come a long way from animosity to reconciliation, trust and even friendship. Dear Witold, many of our generation have been engaged in this complex process. This is too precious to become the object of political games today," Steinmeier said.

Steinmeier also plans to meet Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, members of the opposition and representatives of civil society groups during his visit, only a month after meeting Waszczykowski in Berlin.

Watch video 01:30

Germany and Poland downplay tensions (11.01.2016)

In recent weeks members of the Law and Justice (PiS) majority government in Warsaw have made thinly veiled anti-German comments. Some have suggested the EU Commission's decision to haul Warsaw up on allegedly breaching EU democratic values represents German-led hyprocrisy given the two nations' contorted history.

"Polish-German relations are intensive, which this fast return meeting indicates," Waszczykowski said, adding that the two men had talked about security issues in Europe, preparations for a NATO summit in Warsaw in July, and the Russo-Ukrainian conflict.

Germany's input in improving security on NATO's eastern fringe should be its help in resolving the conflict in Ukraine, Steinmeier said. "This is not only about respecting the truce, but to work out a solution. This is the biggest contribution in this part of the world," he added. Poland in turn has said it wants a permanent NATO presence.

"We also talked about the situation in Europe," Waszczykowski said, stressing that he hoped the UK would decide to stay in the EU.

jh/kms (Reuters, AP)

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