Merkel faces tricky talks in Poland

15th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

15 March 2007, Berlin (dpa) - Chancellor Angela Merkel will have to deal with a number of thorny issues when she seeks to improve relations with Poland during a two-day visit starting Friday. Warsaw's decision to host a US missile shield and its lukewarm reception to Berlin's plans to revive the EU constitution will be on the agenda as well as how to mend uneasy bilateral ties. Merkel will hold talks with Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his twin, President Lech Kaczynski, as well as delivering a spee

15 March 2007

Berlin (dpa) - Chancellor Angela Merkel will have to deal with a number of thorny issues when she seeks to improve relations with Poland during a two-day visit starting Friday.

Warsaw's decision to host a US missile shield and its lukewarm reception to Berlin's plans to revive the EU constitution will be on the agenda as well as how to mend uneasy bilateral ties.

Merkel will hold talks with Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his twin, President Lech Kaczynski, as well as delivering a speech at the University of Warsaw.

In a gesture of friendship, the chancellor will be taking along her husband, Joachim Sauer, who rarely travels with her when she makes official trips outside Germany.

Relations between the two countries have never been easy, but have gone through a series of ups and downs since the Kaczynski brothers came to power.

"Tensions need to be eased in German-Polish relations so that they can become normalized," said Martin Schultz, chairman of the Socialist group of deputies at the European parliament.

Poland's decision to accept US interceptor missiles on its territory has annoyed Germany, which feels the issue should go through NATO and not be decided on a bilateral basis with Washington.

"We, and I, will say that in Poland we would prefer a solution within NATO and also an open discussion with Russia," Merkel told German public television ZDF on Tuesday.

Poland regards the deployment as a national issue and not one for the EU. That is why it did not consult its partners.

The US says the proposed missile shield, which also includes a radar tracking station in the Czech Republic, is not directed at Russia, but against a potential attack by Iran or North Korea,

Another major political difference centres on Germany's attempts to draw up a road map for a revised EU constitution, which it has made one of the key goals of its EU presidency.

Poland fears that it is unfairly treated in the proposed voting system in the new treaty, which gives votes according to population, thus making Germany the major beneficiary in decision-making issues because it is Europe's biggest nation.

The European Union celebrates its 50th anniversary this month and Germany will mark it with a Berlin Declaration, a statement of values on the bloc's past achievements and future goals.

Merkel and the Polish leaders will also be discussing what Germany wants to put into the document before it is made public by EU leaders at an informal summit in the German capital March 25.

Bilateral relations have been clouded by a different interpretation of their common history as well as the activities of German lobby groups for millions expelled from former German territories that became part of Poland after World War II.

The leader of one of these groups, Erika Steinbach, 63, incensed Warsaw last week by comparing the right-of-centre Polish coalition parties with far-right parties in Germany.

The German government was quick to dismiss the comments by the head of the Federation of Expellees, who is also a member of parliament for Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats.

Steinbach is a major backer of a Berlin exhibition about expellees forced to flee Poland, which has been seen by the Kaczynski government as an attempt to rewrite history.

Following her talks in Warsaw, Merkel and her husband are due to travel with the Polish president to his summer residence on the Baltic Sea peninsula of Hel.

DPA

Subject: German news

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