Germany’s new Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock stressed the importance of German-Polish friendship during her inaugural visit to Warsaw on Friday (10 December) but said “intensive discussions” on rule of law issues were necessary.
Speaking in Warsaw alongside her Polish counterpart Zbigniew Rau, Baerbock adopted a firm but fair stance and vowed not to take decisions “over the heads of our neighbours or at the expense of others.”
“That’s why we stand here in full responsibility and solidarity by the side of Poland and the Baltic States,” said Baerbock, who has visited Paris and Brussels since taking office on Wednesday.
“The German-Polish friendship is invaluable,” Baerbock said after her meeting with Rau. However, when it comes to the rule of law, she said that it is “all the more important to be in intensive discussions on the topic.”
In the past months, Poland expressed irritation when German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke about the matter in talks with the Belarusian and Russian presidents.
Baerbock said it was essential to Germany that asylum-seekers “on both sides of the border” receive humanitarian aid as temperatures plummet.
“This is our common European border, where humanity and order apply,” she said.
A day after the German government took office, the Polish officials voiced harsh criticisms of the coalition agreement.
“The language used in the new coalition agreement and the statements of German politicians are unambiguous to me: The new German government looks at Poland as a German protectorate,” Polish vice-justice minister Sebastian Kaleta said die Welt.
Poland will not accept “German dominance”, he added.
Double-edged approach towards Poland
The coalition agreement between the SPD, Greens, and the liberal FDP outlined that the new government would take a tougher stance on the rule of law violations.
The agreement calls on the European Commission to use the existing rule of law instruments in a “more rigorously and timely” manner. It adds that Germany will push for the Council of the EU to use the rule of law instruments at its disposal.
This will also apply to the pandemic recovery fund, where the traffic light coalition wants to make payments conditional on adherence to the rule of law.
However, the German government’s approach is double-edged. While it will take a tougher stance on the rule of law, it also wants to intensify the cooperation with Poland in other areas.
Germany especially plans to revitalise the Weimar Triangle, a political forum between France, Germany, and Poland to reconcile European and international issues.
During her inauguration speech, Baerbock emphasised that she would visit Warsaw because there “is a need for the important axis of the Weimar Triangle.”
The goal of intensifying the collaboration under the Weimar Triangle is also enshrined in the coalition agreement itself, where the three parties agreed to push for concrete projects under the Weimar forum.
Scholz to visit Poland on Sunday
Chancellor Olaf Scholz will visit Poland on Sunday to discuss various European issues with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
Scholz said this week, they will try to avoid any political division between “East and West” in the EU.
“It is very important to us to design the neighbourship in a friendly manner. Poland is a great nation, a democracy,” Scholz said. He also stressed that “Europe is a Union of states with a clear commitment towards the rule of law and liberal democracy.”
Another issue on the agenda will be Nord Stream 2.
On Thursday, Morawiecki called on the new German government to oppose the controversial pipeline project that would run from Russia to Germany.
“I will call on Chancellor Scholz not to give in to pressure from Russia and not to allow Nord Stream 2 to be used as an instrument for blackmail against Ukraine, an instrument for blackmail against Poland, an instrument for blackmail against the European Union,” Morawiecki said during a visit to Rome.
Scholz has so far been avoiding the topic. However, a leaked classified document revealed that Germany has agreed to take action if Russia uses energy as a weapon in its relations with Ukraine.
Energy Minister Robert Habeck has said the German government would carefully evaluate how the situation is being handled.
“We will certainly discuss politically how the foreign policy situation in Ukraine and the European options to work towards de-escalation can be combined,” Habeck said in regard to the outstanding approval of Nord Stream 2.
[Edited by Alice Taylor]