Germany and Poland praise their reconciliation as an example for Europe | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 21.06.2011
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Germany and Poland praise their reconciliation as an example for Europe

At a joint session of the Polish and German cabinets in Warsaw, marking the twentieth anniversary of a historic treaty on friendly cooperation, the two countries' leaders describe their relations as exemplary.

German, Polish and European flags

Strong German-Polish relations are critical for Europe

Polish-German relations should serve as an example for all of Europe, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk told a news conference in Warsaw which he held together with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Tusk spoke following a joint meeting of the two cabinets, during which a package of nearly one hundred issues was adopted, setting out directions in which future relations should develop.

The package covers issues ranging from energy security to improving road and rail links to dealing with respective ethnic minorities in Poland and Germany.

But Tusk pointed out that the most important achievement was the solid ground on which bilateral relations in the future can be built.

"Thanks to the efforts of people of goodwill, Poland and Germany have managed to change the course of their history, to turn away from the difficult experiences of their tragic past," Tusk said.

"Our two countries can now serve as an example of how to build relations between peoples, institutions and entire countries, in spite of traumatic moments in history."

Cooperation on Greece

Tusk and Merkel discussed their two countries' stance on the proposed economic rescue package for Greece. As the political atmosphere in Europe sours due to the stubborn debt crisis within the eurozone, Berlin and Warsaw promised to continue working toward a solution.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Donald Tusk shake hands

Merkel and Tusk praised their nations' historic reconciliation

The Polish prime minister made it clear that, even though Warsaw remains outside the eurozone, it is willing to share in the cost, while the German chancellor spelled out the terms on which the EU should offer assistance to Athens.

"There are three components here," Merkel said. "Namely Greece's obligations, solidarity among EU member states and the voluntary participation of banks. That's the way to solve Greece's problems. I am convinced that this is the road we should take."

Polish migrants bypass Germany

Germany has experienced robust economic growth despite the debt problems gripping the eurozone. So it has come as a surprise to many that since Germany opened its doors to Polish laborers last month, instead of an expected flood of migrants, not many have decided to take the plunge.

German economics minister Philip Rösler told a news conference in the Polish capital that, by delaying the move countries like Britain took seven years ago, Germany has missed the opportunity of attracting the best Polish specialists.

"In hindsight, the extension by two years in 2009 of a transition period for the access of Polish laborers to the German market seems to have been a mistake," Rösler said.

"In the past two years a large number of Polish specialists simply went to work in other EU countries, thus bypassing Germany."

Cultural understanding

But Joachim Ciecierski, a commentator on Polish-German relations, says there are other reasons why Poles are not so keen to seek greener pastures in Germany.

"Poles don't know the German language," Ciecierski said. "Most Poles know English, and they prefer going to England, or now Holland, because it is a smaller country, but its economy is growing."

Although Germany's economy is strong overall, it remains relatively weak in the eastern region closest to the Polish border. Ciecierski says this deters many Poles from settling in Germany.

German and Polish cabinets in consultation

The cabinets of the two governments discussed a range of issues

And for the older generation in Poland born shortly after World War Two, traumatic memories of a turbulent era continue to color their view of Germany.

"In the generation 40 plus there are still mental barriers," Ciecierski said.

These mental barriers, however, have slowly started fading in the twenty years since Poland and Germany set out a new course in their relations.

Business between them is now booming. Poland has even managed to upstage Russia as Germany's chief trading partner in the East. This reality of mutual economic benefits, observers say, has done more for the improvement of relations between the two societies since the fall of communism than anything else.

"When it comes to the younger generation, you can see that Poles are looking for contacts with Germans, and that Germans are looking to come to our country to speak with us, so this is a very good thing," Ciecierski said.

Author: Rafal Kiepuszewski, Warsaw / sk
Editor: Susan Houlton

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