Angela Merkel visits Poland in bid to thaw chilly relations | News | DW | 19.03.2018
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Angela Merkel visits Poland in bid to thaw chilly relations

Germany's Angela Merkel is carrying a message of EU unity on her trip to Warsaw. But with tensions simmering over refugee quotas and Poland's controversial judicial reforms, the chancellor had to walk a fine line.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel traveled to Warsaw on Monday for talks with Polish leaders aimed at improving relations which have been strained by disagreements on rule of law, immigration and refugee policy, and Poland's new Holocaust law, as well as a new gas pipeline.

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On her second foreign trip since being sworn in for a fourth term as chancellor, Merkel said she would work to ensure "that we have a common agenda in Europe." 

"The German government will work on German-Polish relations with renewed vigor, Merkel said at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. She added that a better working relationship with Warsaw "will benefit Europe and our two countries." 

Morawiecki said that Poland is engaging in a "constructive dialogue" with the European Commission over its controversial judicial reforms.

"I can say that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, that we will reach an agreement," he said.

In December, the European Commission launched Article 7 against Poland over the reforms and gave the government three months to address the Commission's concerns.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki (R) welcomes German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) (picture-alliance/dpa/PAP/J. Kaminski)

Merkel received a warm welcome from Morawiecki despite diplomatic tensions between their countries

Tricky territory in Warsaw trip

Merkel emphasized the need for unity in the EU as well as Germany's commitment to NATO military spending targets.

Monday's talks required Merkel to balance between enlisting Poland's help with backing the EU while also being firm on EU core principles that have been challenged by Poland's sweeping judicial reforms.

Both Brussels and Berlin say Warsaw's reforms are an attack on the independence of the judiciary. The Polish government, however, maintains that the reforms are necessary to root out corruption.

The Polish government has also come under fire for passing a new law that bans certain statements about the Holocaust, which critics say amounts to a denial of the actions of some Poles during the Holocaust.

Read moreMy Europe: Remembering people, not nations, in discussing the Holocaust

Unresolved tensions concerning divergent immigration policies still remain, particularly over Poland's opposition to an EU-wide plan to redistribute asylum-seekers.

Warsaw has also criticized the planned "Nord Stream 2" gas pipeline, which will be routed from Russia to Germany, but bypass Poland and Ukraine.

Neither leader mentioned the pipeline during Monday's joint press conference.

Rift in EU unity

In an effort to combat the growing rift between eastern and western European Union member states, Germany's new Foreign Minister Heiko Maas urged closer ties during a meeting with his Polish counterpart last Friday.

Both foreign ministers called for the revival of the Weimar Triangle, a political cooperation platform between Poland, Germany and France. Their last meeting was in 2016.

Ties between Germany and Poland became particularly strained after the Polish nationalist, conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS) came to power in 2015.

There are also concerns that the rise of far-right, anti-migrant parties in Austria and Italy could contribute to a rift between Brussels and central European countries.

rs/kl (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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