Germany′s Merkel Warns and Woos Poland | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 16.03.2007
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Germany's Merkel Warns and Woos Poland

German Chancellor Angela Merkel Friday warned Poland against blocking the European Union's stalled constitution, while she also sought to woo Warsaw to Germany's side in building a stronger Europe.

Merkel is greeted by Poland's Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, right

Merkel is greeted by Poland's Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, right

Failure to endorse the EU constitution would be "a historic missed opportunity," Merkel said in a speech at Warsaw University shortly after arriving here on a visit both "as German chancellor and president of the EU."

Led by Poland's euro-sceptic identical twins, President Lech Kaczynski and his brother Jaroslaw, the prime minister, Warsaw last month urged the EU to ditch attempts to revive the constitution which was put on ice two years ago when French and Dutch voters rejected it.

"The time for reflection is past. It's time for decisions. I pledge that there will be a roadmap to move forward (with the constitution) by the end of the German presidency," in June, Merkel said.

"It is not only in Europe's interest but also in the interest of member states and citizens of Europe that this process is taken to a positive end by the next European elections in 2009.

"Failure to do this would be a historic missed opportunity," Merkel said.

Don't dwell on, or forget, the past

She urged Poland to leave behind -- but not forget -- past tensions with Germany and move forward with its central European neighbor for a stronger Europe.

"As Pope John Paul II said, it is God's will that Germany and Poland are neighbours. As neighbors, we have a duty and responsibility to live well together," she said.

Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel, Polen Ministerpräsident Jaroslaw Kaczynski

Tensions have been high between Poland and Germany lately

"For Germany and Poland to live well together, today and in future, we must draw lessons from the darkest period in our history," she said, referring to World War II, during which "more than six million Poles lost their lives because of the Germans."

Germans must not only accept their nation's dark past but also be allowed to mourn it, Merkel said.

"As German chancellor, I understand and support the Germans who at the end of World War II were painfully forced from their homeland, and their right to look back on their fate with dignity," she said in her speech in the Polish capital, a city almost entirely destroyed by the Nazis at the end of the war.

Expellees addressed

Gnawing at relations between Poland and Germany is the issue of Germans who were expelled from Polish territory as World War II drew to a close.

They were among some 14 million German civilians who were displaced, deported or expelled from their homes in eastern Europe from 1944 onwards as the Soviet Red Army advanced and Germany's Third Reich crumbled.

Merkel has in the past spoken out in favor of a proposed center for Germany's war displaced -- a project that the Kaczynski twins bitterly oppose, saying it is an attempt to portray Germans as war victims and rewrite history.

"Dignity would, to my mind, come from not just the Germans who were expelled or fled, but also all others, including Poles, being allowed to remember their pain and, above all, for it to be made clear that history cannot and will not be rewritten," Merkel said.

Christian question

Europeans are united by common values, she said, but failed to go as far as the leaders of Catholic Poland who want references to Christianity to be included in a statement set to be issued to mark the 50th anniversary of the bloc's founding Treaty of Rome next week.

Santo Subito

The Catholic Church is still very strong in Poland

"Europe is not a 'Christian club', as some would like to say. But Europe is founded on values that are clearly grounded in the Christian vision of humanity," said Merkel.

Poles and Germans must "keep working to make old fears, worries and even prejudices disappear," but assured that "a lot of hard work has already been done," the German chancellor said.

"There is only one way forward: don't act alone but as part of a united Europe, which is also a strong Europe."

Merkel left Warsaw after the speech for the Polish presidential retreat in the Baltic seaside resort of Hel, where she is due to hold closed-door talks on Saturday with the Polish president.

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