Before talking about reparations
Baerbock in Poland: “We will be there for you”
10/03/2022, 11:25 p.m
The German Foreign Minister is spending the Day of German Unity in Warsaw, in the neighboring country of the attacked Ukraine. Baerbock speaks of a “heart friendship” between Germans and Poles. At tomorrow’s meeting with her Polish counterpart, however, the atmosphere could become chillier given the latest demands for reparations.
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has pledged support to Poland and all of Central and Eastern Europe in the face of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. “We will be there for you, just as you were there for us when we needed you most,” said the Green politician at a celebration of the German embassy in the Polish capital of Warsaw on German Unity Day. “Because the security of Eastern Europe is Germany’s security. You can rely on that,” she called out to the guests from Poland. In the 1980s, the Poles overcame the communist regime with protests and thus initiated the turning point in Central and Eastern Europe.
Before her departure for Warsaw, Baerbock after loud demands for reparations and sharp tones of the national-conservative PiS government appealed to Poland to preserve the partnership. Previously, Warsaw had reinforced its demands for compensation from Germany for the damage it suffered in World War II: Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau signed a diplomatic note to that effect, which is to be handed over to Berlin. Baerbock will meet her counterpart on Tuesday for talks.
Rau had stated that the note “expresses the Polish Foreign Minister’s conviction that the parties should take immediate steps towards a permanent, comprehensive and final legal and material settlement of the consequences of German aggression and occupation of 1939-1945”. On the 83rd anniversary of the start of the Second World War on September 1st, a parliamentary commission in Warsaw presented a report in which the damage caused by the World War in Poland was estimated at more than 1.3 trillion euros.
Baerbock does not comment directly on claims
Poland’s foreign minister did not name a specific amount on Monday. However, Rau made it clear that according to Warsaw, a regulation must include “the payment of compensation by Germany for the material and immaterial damage that the Polish state suffered as a result of this aggression and occupation”. Victims of the German occupiers and their family members would also have to be compensated. Likewise, a regulation for the looted cultural assets and archives must be found.
The federal government rejects the demand for reparations. In doing so, she refers to the Two Plus Four Agreement of 1990 on the foreign policy consequences of German unity. Baerbock did not directly address the Polish request for compensation. But she emphasized that Germany and Poland are forever connected. “What we have is a friendship of the heart between millions of people, a friendship and partnership that is stronger than political disagreements.” This friendship has to be worked on again and again, “no matter how challenging it may be sometimes,” she said. Baerbock emphasized: “We will not let up in our support for Ukraine” – together with our partners in the EU and NATO. “Because we Germans will never forget that we have our allies and neighbors to thank for our life in freedom, in a reunified country in the heart of Europe.”
Above all, the EU is a freedom and peace union, said Baerbock. For seven months, Europe has been experiencing “a war that is writing a new chapter in our history with a brutal pen.” The Ukrainians fought not only for the survival of their country, but for a free Europe. “Right now we are experiencing how an effective European Union is not an end in itself, but our common life insurance,” said the minister. Poland is now back “at the center of those who support this struggle for freedom at all levels, above all as a population.” This fills her with great respect – and that’s also why she came to Warsaw on German Unity Day.