The Weimar Triangle, founded 25 years ago, is ailing. Gone are the days of political euphoria. The alliance between Warsaw, Berlin and Paris has lost influence, but it is still important, writes DW's Adelheid Feilcke.
On August 28 and 29, 1991, the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Poland - Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Roland Dumas and Krzysztof Skubiszewski - met in the German city of Weimar and the so-called Weimar Triangle came into being. The three ministers summarized their vision in a 10-point declaration on the future of Europe. It was a shared responsibility for a mutual European future. The Weimar scheme was not only created to serve Poland but also to guide other new democracies in central and Eastern Europe towards the European Union.
The group played an undeniably important role in the EU enlargement process and the admission of Poland and its neighbors to NATO. But after 2004, it lost its appeal as a forum for dialogue. Politically, the triangle was frozen. All attempts to use the group as a support mechanism for major political challenges failed. At the height of the Ukraine crisis in 2014, a strong impetus emerged from the Weimar Triangle when the ministers from the group met with the Ukrainian president and opposition leaders in Kyiv.
A quarter-century after its inception, the group's influence is diminished and it has become one of many regular dialogue forums. That's not so bad. After all, it is a sign of normality in a functioning, united Europe and the group did accomplish its mission. But times have changed drastically and no one had anticipated the refugee crisis, Russia's new unpredictability, terrorism and last but not least, Brexit. European structures have become dangerously unstable. Wasn't solidarity between three major European countries an important signal, one of stability and continuity? Could one not risk a new European beginning through the collaboration of three influential countries such as France, Germany and Poland?
But there is little of that spirit to be found. In April, Polish foreign minister Witold Waszczykowski had even stated that the idea was exhausted. Instead, he said Poland, as perhaps the most important Eastern European EU country, was looking for other affiliations, such as the Visegrad Group and bilateral relations to lead an Eastern European community of interests, which seems to be opposed to Germany, especially Chancellor Angela Merkel's refugee policy. France has its own problems and is too busy with terrorist threats, economic woes and a weak president. Who has the Weimar Triangle on their mind?
Delicate signs of new political momentum
The anniversary meeting in Weimar will take place after a week of various bilateral meetings. Merkel kicked off the week with a meeting of the new European triangle, Italy, France and Germany. Germany has a vital interest in a close cooperation with its neighbors. Poland and France are the most important ones. Today, countries of the Weimar Triangle are exponents of three quite different European fields of interest. If the European axis works, then it is a key element of the continent's economic, political and security alliances. For that reason, it is encouraging to hear that the Polish foreign minister wants to revive the Weimar Triangle and plans to appoint coordinators ahead of important meetings. This can be seen as an advancement.
Twenty-five years after its foundation, the Triangle does not merely offer Eastern Europe integral assistance. It continues to serve as a communication platform for a central geopolitical axis on the European continent, comprised of 180 million people from three large nations. The group should use this potential as a driving force in solving major European problems, regardless of domestic and bilateral tensions which have caused a rightward shift in politics, especially in Poland.
Despite their differences, Poland, Germany and France still have common interests, for example, promoting security and defense policies and European integration in times of crisis. Even though there are many objective opportunities for the group, the spirit for a revival is lacking. National selfishness and mutual recriminations prevail in Europe. Nonetheless, the Weimar Triangle is a symbol of a successful integration story. It is up to its members to give the symbol new meaning and to gather new strength for European integration again.
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