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Merkel meets with Polish PM amid strained ties

February 16, 2018

The Polish premier and the German chancellor have said in Berlin that they want to intensify their bilateral ties. However, "serious differences" on Poland's judicial reforms and the Nord Stream pipeline remain.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in Berlin
Image: Reuters/H. Hanschke

German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Friday in Berlin amid rocky relations between the neighboring countries.

Although the two leaders appeared at ease during their joint press conference and emphasized their cooperation in defense and foreign policy, Merkel noted that there are still "serious differences of opinion" between Berlin and Warsaw.

Read moreIs 'Polexit' in the cards? Tusk warns Poland may quit EU

Mateusz Morawiecki on Conflict Zone

Where Merkel and Morawiecki stand 

  • One of their biggest points of contention in their meeting appeared to be over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which would link Russia and Germany.
  • At their joint press conference, Morawiecki warned that the project could threaten energy diversification and that it was important that "no side has a price monopoly."
  • Merkel defended the project, saying that Germany views the pipeline as an "economic project" and that it believes "Nord Stream poses no danger to diversification."
  • Regarding refugees and immigration, Merkel said both sides wanted to strengthen the EU's outside borders and to "combat the causes of flight" in parts of Africa and the Middle East.
  • Morawiecki defended his country's controversial judicial reforms while Merkel deferred judgement on the matter to Brussels.

Fighting for democracy in Poland

What are the sticking points between Germany and Poland?

Defense: Poland has criticized Germany for not sufficiently addressing security concerns in Europe, particularly when it comes to spending. US President Donald Trump demanded that all NATO members spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense. While Poland has achieved this level, Germany is below the target.

Refugee resettlement: The Polish government has refused to take in asylum seekers under an EU-wide quota system, saying that it doesn't have the capacity and shouldn't be forced to resettle them. The EU has sued Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic over their low refugee intake.

Poland's 'Holocaust law': A diplomatic row between Israel and Poland was sparked after Warsaw passed a law that criminalizes ascribing blame for crimes committed by Nazi Germany to the Polish nation, including use of the term "Polish death camp." Berlin has repeatedly stated that Nazi Germany was responsible for the atrocities committed during World War II.

New Holocaust law controversial

Judicial and media reforms: A recent raft of judicial reforms has been criticized by Brussels and several European countries, who say they jeopardize the independence of the judiciary. Warsaw insists the measures are needed to combat corruption. Poland faces disciplinary measures from Brussels if it does not scrap the reforms.

WWII reparations: Last summer, politicians in Poland's ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) accused Germany of shirking its responsibility for World War II and was mulling more reparations. Warsaw has since said that the issue was not pressing, while Berlin maintains the issue has already been settled.

Nord Stream 2: The Polish government also strongly objects to a proposed gas pipeline project that would link Russia to Germany and bypass Poland and Ukraine. Warsaw argues that the pipeline would make Europe more dependent on Moscow.

Read morePoles told to denounce 'anti-Polish' compatriots following Holocaust law

What happens next: Morawiecki extended an invitation to Merkel for her to attend celebrations for Poland's 100th independence anniversary, which will take place in November.

rs/rt (AFP, dpa)

Tensions between Poland, EU

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