Germany's Steinmeier heads to Poland to mend fences

19th January 2016, Comments 0 comments

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Tuesday that he would travel to Poland this week in a bid to shore up relations amid rising tensions between the EU neighbours.

Steinmeier said he would meet with representatives of the Polish government and civil society in Warsaw Thursday in a spirit of reconciliation given the enduring weight of the brutal Nazi occupation of Poland on their ties.

"Of course there is no relationship (that Germany has) with another country that is more sensitive and burdened by history than with Poland," he told reporters.

"That does not mean that we cannot speak about the things that concern us. But it can influence the way we do it."

Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski last week took the rare measure of summoning the German ambassador after several German and other European politicians criticised recent media and justice reforms by Poland's new right-wing government as an erosion of liberties.

Last month, European Parliament President Martin Schulz, a German Social Democrat, compared the political situation in Poland to a "coup", prompting Prime Minister Beata Szydlo to demand an apology.

The European Commission last week launched an unprecedented probe into whether Poland's new legislation governing its Constitutional Court violated the bloc's democracy rules and merited punitive measures.

Commenting on the step, Steinmeier said: "I assume that Poland will now make an effort to answer their questions."

Meanwhile Poland's opposition to taking in refugees has irked Germany, which is pressing for an EU solution to the crisis after it saw a record 1.1 million asylum seekers arrive last year.

Steinmeier said Berlin and Warsaw had worked in the quarter-century since German reunification and the end of the Cold War to build strong ties, and urged more discretion and diplomacy.

"Given how the German-Polish relationship has grown in the last 25 years, I believe it shouldn't be sacrificed on the altar of public confrontation at every opportunity," he said.

© 2016 AFP

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