Aleksander Kwasniewski: An unstable Europe needs a strong Germany | Opinion | DW | 21.09.2017

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Aleksander Kwasniewski: An unstable Europe needs a strong Germany

The German election campaign has not set Aleksander Kwasniewski’s pulse racing. However, the former Polish president feels the future of Europe has a great deal riding on the outcome.

Predictability in a time of chaos, responsibility during dangerous times and brave decisions at times of new and unknown challenges. These, in a nutshell, are my expectations from Germany. We will soon see if the German electorate thinks in a similar way.

This election in Germany does not fire up the emotions, as earlier ones in the Netherlands, Britain and France did. And it's good thing, too. The political landscape is quite stable and that gives us in Europe the certainty that the key existing political directions will not change.

And that is important given the turbulence, crisis phenomena, waves of populism, reinforcement of selfish national interest in many countries and the growing weakness of traditional parties and political elites in recent years.

Germany, not free of negative phenomena itself, remains the place that has retained stability and faith in European values and possesses that indispensable potential to resolve the most difficult of problems.

However, I eagerly await the results of this election as I feel that resolving the most pressing problems in Europe and beyond cannot wait any longer.

After the election, I expect to see immediate projects aimed at reinforcing European integration and their rapid execution. Europe - like never before - needs  strong German leadership.

Germany is predestined to play a key role due to its position as the largest European economic power, its experience as an "engine" state - alongside France - of European integration and also stemming from its historical role of sensitivity toward and understanding of the problems of Central and Eastern Europe.

Germany possesses a fundamental authority in international politics, while German pragmatism can drive forward a deepening of trans-Atlantic relations, which are so important for the whole of Europe.

Former Presidents Bronislaw Komorowski (2-L) and Aleksander Kwasniewski (2-R) with KOD leader Mateusz Kijowski (L) participate in the march organised by Polish Committee for the Defence of Democracy (KOD) at the Bank Square in Warsaw

Former President Aleksander Kwasniewski (pictured second right) at the anniversary of the first post-war free Polish elections

It is necessary to resolve a range of European problems simultaneously.

Questions connected with the huge wave of migration are moving into the political forefront. Migration has spurred decentralization movements and a rise in populism and nationalism.

The background to migration can be found in conflicts in areas around Europe and the demographic boom in Africa, which requires a grand program for the continent. The second priority is the development of a common European defense and a coordinated fight against terrorism, which is in all our interests.

The third is overcoming the effects of the economic crisis of recent years - rising inequality, youth unemployment and a breakdown in trust in the institution of the free market.

Fourthly, it is necessary to undertake reforms that will help Europe effectively compete in a changing world, something that requires expenditure on education, scientific research, new technology and effective methods for their implementation.

The stakes are high. The struggle between advocates of European integration and populists and nationalists is set to intensify. I expect Germany to stand up as the guardian of a united Europe and its fundamental values, even if that means a multi-speed Europe. Moreover, that it will oppose the raising of barriers, the deepening of divisions, rising protectionism and the politics of exclusion.

And finally - Poland and Germany. I am proud to have been a part of the great project of Polish-German reconciliation. After a thousand years of difficult neighborliness, we are in the EU and NATO together. We are allies. This binds us.

Democracy has its various periods and episodes, but dialogue is an ever-present necessity, as are good will and an understanding that the most difficult past should not destroy the chance for a good future.

After these elections, I expect Germany to conduct dialogue and cooperation in the atmosphere and reality that we created after 1989 and that the response from Poland will be more pragmatic and European than it has been in the last two years.