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Deutschland Angela Merkel empfängt Beata Szydlo
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/M.Kappeler

German, Polish leaders united on NATO boost

Darko Janjevic (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
June 22, 2016

German chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo ahead of a joint cabinet session in Berlin. The two leaders discussed military tensions with Russia and the upcoming UK referendum.

https://p.dw.com/p/1JBUY

Merkel and Szydlo praised the ties between the two neighboring countries at the Wednesday press conference, referring also to the troubled history between Warsaw and Berlin.

The talks were held in a "friendly atmosphere," Merkel said, describing the summit as a good day for bilateral relations. Members of their two governments also held a joint session in Berlin later on Wednesday.

The meet follows months of dispute between Berlin and Warsaw on a number of issues, including refugee distribution and the Polish government's relations with the judiciary and the media.

On Wednesday, however, Merkel said that Warsaw's relation to the press and the courts falls under the responsibility of the EU commission.

Instead, the two leaders sought to present a united front on the international issues such as Brexit and the NATO build-up in eastern Europe.

Deutschland Vertreter der polnischen und der deutschen Regierungen im Kanzleramt
Two governments have bumped heads over rule of law in PolandImage: picture-alliance/dpa/W. Kumm

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier recently prompted criticism in Poland by warning against NATO "saber rattling" towards Russia.

At the Wednesday press conference, Merkel said that NATO policies incorporated both the boosting of defense capabilities and the dialogue with Moscow. "Both of these pillars are important," she added.

Merkel also urged a larger defense budget that would see Germany reach NATO guidelines on earmarking two percent of national GDP for defense "in the long run."

"All of the NATO partners have agreed on this. Germany has not yet fulfilled those goals," she said.

Key to world's security

Germany is set to coordinate a NATO force of about 1,000 soldiers in Lithuania starting next year.

Szydlo thanked Germany for supporting the military build-up towards Russia, and said Berlin was helping in "strengthening NATO's eastern flank." The Polish leader also described the upcoming NATO summit in Warsaw as key to "the security of Europe and the security of the world."

The two leaders also commented on the upcoming Brexit vote, saying they favored the UK staying in the EU. At the same time, both Berlin and Warsaw would honor any referendum outcome as a "sovereign decision of the British themselves," Szydlo said.

In a symbolic gesture, Foreign Minister Steinmeier and his Polish colleague Witold Waszczykowski presented a history textbook in a Berlin school. Students in both Germany and Poland are to be taught using the same textbook, developing a joint outlook on history, Steinmeier said.

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