Merkel, Tusk to discuss disputes "as friends"
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk agreed to face up to points of difference between their two countries at their first meeting in Berlin since Tusk took office last month.
11 December 2007
Berlin (dpa) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk agreed Tuesday to face up to points of difference between their two countries at their first meeting in Berlin since Tusk took office last month.
"There can be no taboo themes between friends," Tusk said, signalling a significant improvement in relations between the two neighbours following two years of mutual tension under his predecessor, Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
Merkel said they had agreed "not to evade difficult issues" such as the planned Nord Stream Pipeline to pipe gas directly to Germany from Russia under the Baltic.
Poland strenuously opposes the scheme, agreed under Merkel's predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, fearing it would be bypassed in future key decisions on European energy policy.
The Economics ministers of both countries would discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the scheme, Merkel said.
Tusk said differences remained on the issue, but he noted that Merkel had "taken cognizance of Poland's viewpoints."
He held out the possibility of three-way discussions on the contentious issue, drawing in Russia as well as Poland and Germany.
The two leaders also discussed the continuing problems between their countries arising from World War II.
Germany fully acknowledged its responsibility for the war, and this was a permanent aspect of German politics, irrespective of the government in power, Merkel said.
She firmly rejected German fringe groups that denied the Holocaust.
Tusk responded by by saying that this was "a significant statement from a German chancellor."
On the vexed question of how to remember the war's victims, Tusk acknowledged continuing differences over a planned centre in Berlin to recall the sufferings of ethnic Germans expelled from Poland and other countries at the end of the war.
He said he had raised the alternative of a museum in Danzig, where war broke out in 1939, suggesting it could be part of a "European network" of memorials.
Merkel stressed that the proposal could not be an alternative for her government's plans for a "visible sign" in Berlin to remember the expellees, which could also be part of the network. A German delegation would visit Warsaw to explain the scheme, she said.
"The project does not have the intention of relativizing cause and effect in World War II," she added.
Earlier Merkel welcomed the Polish leader with a military guard of honour.
Before his arrival, Tusk had urged the German government to abandon its plans for a memorial to the expellees in Berlin, saying that Poland would never accept anything that called into question how the war was seen in its historical context.
"It is important that the plans for a centre against the expulsions in Berlin are abandoned," he said.
According to German estimates, some 15 million German speakers were expelled from their homes. Up to 2 million are thought to have died as a result of the expulsions.
Ahead of the meeting, both sides stressed the need for "a new chapter" in German-Polish relations, which reached a low earlier this year over German efforts to revive the stalled European constitution.
Kaczynski objected in particular to the weighting accorded Germany, as the largest EU member, saying Poland's population would have been much larger but for the war started by Germany.
Tusk also met German President Horst Koehler.