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Heiko Maas renews trilateral talks with Poland, France

March 16, 2018

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is seeking to reform the so-called "Weimar Triangle" of Germany, Poland and France. Maas told Warsaw officials that eastern EU states should take a leading role in Brussels.

Germany and Poland's foreign ministers Heiko Maas and Jacek Czaputowicz in Warsaw
Image: Getty Images/AFP/J. Skarzynski

Germany's new top diplomat Heiko Maas appealed for Poland to take its place as one of the European Union's leading decision makers, during a state visit to Warsaw on Friday.

Maas also called for the reintroduction of the so-called "Weimar Triangle" format — a policy forum created by the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Poland in 1991.

Read more: New Foreign Minister Heiko Maas pledges Germany will not 'duck away' from global responsibilities

Such a move, he said, would show that discussions were not being led by Germany and France, but by the eastern European states as well.

It would be "very feasible for discussions on the future of Europe to be held in this format," Maas said.

Although ministers from the three countries met a number of times in the Weimar Triangle format during the 1990s and 2000s, there have been no trilateral talks between Germany, France and Poland since the nationalist conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS) came to power in Warsaw in 2015.

Maas' Polish counterpart, Jacek Czaputowicz, said he was in favor of reviving the cooperation between the three states.

The German minister's visit precedes Chancellor Angela Merkel's trip to Warsaw on Monday, where she is due to hold talks with Polish President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

This marked Maas' second official visit as Berlin's new top diplomat. On Wednesday, he visited Paris just hours after he formally took over the reins of Germany's foreign ministry.

Read more: Heiko Maas: Who is Germany's new foreign minister?

A Polish perspective on Germany

Strong ties despite differing views

Maas also used Friday's trip to stress the close ties between the two neighbors and fellow EU members, despite the Polish government's decision to break away from its allies on several issues, including law and immigration.

The conservative PiS government's decision to introduce sweeping changes to its judiciary has drawn criticism from EU leaders. Warsaw, in turn, has accused Brussels of failing to respect its sovereignty and the right to make its own decisions.

"Despite different points of view here and there, Poland and Germany are indispensable neighbors and friends," Maas said on Friday, adding that the horrors of World War II proved that close ties between the two states should never be taken for granted.

"During my talks in Warsaw today, I learned that many aspects from our past continue to raise very emotional issues in Poland, which cannot simply be pushed aside with sober rationalism," Maas said.

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

Last month, Poland passed its so-called "Holocaust bill," criminalizing statements concerning alleged Polish complicity in the Holocaust. Under the law, anyone found guilty of ascribing "responsibility or co-responsibility to the Polish nation or state for crimes committed by the German Third Reich" could face up to three years in prison.

Berlin's reaction to the bill has been relatively muted, with Merkel and Sigmar Gabriel, Maas' predecessor, only reiterating Germany's unique guilt for the Holocaust.

New Holocaust law controversial

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dm/jm (dpa, AFP, Reuters)