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Merkel in Poland: farewell to an icon

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Poland/Germany – With the next Bundestag elections less than two weeks away, Angela Merkel, who is not running this time after having led Germany for almost 16 years – only three months less than her mentor, Helmut Kohl – is now bidding farewell. On Saturday, 11 September, she visited Poland, the country that was the homeland of her paternal grandfather, Ludwik Kaźmierczak. The German Chancellor met Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, but strangely did not have a meeting with President Andrzej Duda.

Germany and Poland in harmony over the Belarus crisis

At a joint press conference with the Polish head of government, Merkel spoke in particular about the current migration crisis at the Belarusian border, expressing Germany’s support for Poland:

Europe must do more for its security […] We see hybrid attacks on the eastern border, pressure in the form of refugees. We must help humanely, and at the same time we must protect the external borders of the European Union. […] I find it totally unacceptable that such hybrid attacks are being carried out using these people.

Mateusz Morawiecki was pleased that Germany now has “positions significantly closer” to Poland’s on this important issue.

We have the full support of the European Commission, and also the German government, to defend Europe from illegal immigration”,

he noted with satisfaction.

Divergences over Nord Stream 2

On the issue of the German-Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline – where Germany and Poland have differing views – Angela Merkel reminded Poland, somewhat defensively, that Germany is “committed to ensuring that gas supplies are guaranteed” for Ukraine. However, these guarantees remain unconvincing to Mr Morawiecki, who fears for the “security of this region”, which he thinks Russia still considers its backyard.

On the so-called “rule of law” issue pitting the Polish government against the EU authorities, Merkel said she preferred to “solve the problems through dialogue”, referring to talks already underway between Mateusz Morawiecki and European Commission Vice President Věra Jourová, who also visited Warsaw a few days ago.

German arrogance towards Poland 

Contrary to usual practice, the German Chancellor did not meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda, as he was attending a commemorative ceremony in Katowice, Upper Silesia on that day. While some German newspapers explained this as an alleged refusal by Mr Duda to receive Mrs Merkel, the reason rather seems to have been that the German Chancellery simply failed to make an appointment with the Polish Presidency. As Andrzej Dera, the State Secretary of the Polish President’s Chancellery, pointed out,

If someone wants to visit someone, they make an appointment.”

It looks as if the German Chancellery assumed that merely announcing Angela Merkel’s visit to Warsaw should have been enough for the Polish President to change his agenda, even without being expressly asked. This last diplomatic blunder of the Merkel era probably best sums up the current German attitude towards Central Europe.