How did Poland influence Western Europe?


Dieter Bingen
Germany and Poland in Europe: Problems, Treaties and Perspectives*

    * [Reprinted from: Federal Institute for Eastern and International Studies No. 9/1991.]

1. Before democracy was established in Poland and all of Germany, the prerequisites for the partnership-based understanding between Germans and Poles, desired by well-meaning politicians, publicists, intellectuals, church people and other committed people, could only rudimentarily be created. For more than forty years, the political legitimacy of rule in Poland was in doubt. The twenty year old "normalization process" concerned the relationship between the West German state and Poland. There was "class brotherhood" between the GDR and Poland, which was only able to conceal mutual demarcation and mistrust with great difficulty. Real understanding with Poland could only be sought by non-conformists on the GDR side. The consequences of the Cold War and the division of Germany and Europe prevented open encounters in a real neighborhood and partnership until recently due to the system.

2. Even after the abolition of the political division of Europe, not all obstacles to German-Polish understanding have been removed. The future of German-Polish relations is largely determined by the economic, civilizational and socio-cultural legacy of the old system and by the circumstances of the systemic collapse in all of Eastern Europe (including the eastern part of today's Federal Republic of Germany).

3. Disintegration tendencies characterize not only the international relations of "Eastern" Europe, but also the internal development of the individual countries of Eastern, Central Eastern and Southeastern Europe. At the same time, Germany is returning to European politics as a political power, integrated into political, economic and military alliances, the existence of which does not appear to be endangered and which require new concepts. The interplay of disintegration and integration

Integration in the center of Europe influences the political and intellectual elites in the new democracies. The catchphrase of a "return to Europe" and fears of appropriation, loss of identity, sellout and colonization compete with each other.

4. The "return to Europe" is decisively pre-judged by the perception of the geographical, economic, cultural and political bridging function of Germany to Western Europe as well as by the perception of this Germany as a dominant power. The perception of Germany's singular role in Poland and elsewhere has the consequence that historical and socio-psychological factors make it difficult to articulate political and economic interests in the decision-making processes of the political elite, and that space is created for manipulation and populist demagogy.

5. Two development models are available for Poland and the other post-communist democracies after the collapse of the post-war European order: "Europeanization" in the sense of adopting the standards of the political culture and technical civilization of Western Europe or defending against the political and economic model, national isolation and chauvinism with authoritarian tendencies and the consequences of a further technical-civilizational and political-cultural decoupling from Western Europe.

6. Regardless of this non-simultaneity of the development of "Western" and "Eastern" Europe, which is sometimes assumed to be fateful, the further European development towards cooperative structures depends crucially on deliberate decisions and imaginative policy-making. The governments of democratic Poland and of united and democratic Germany have spoken out in favor of a European policy and, in view of the tough needs, for a qualitatively new neighborhood between Poland and Germany.

7. The first Solidarnosc government announced the upheaval in German-Polish relations in the autumn of 1989 and spoke for a reconciliation between Germans and Poles. For years the democratic opposition had been calling for a new policy on Germany based on the premise of freedom

In the long run Poland would be inconceivable without the freedom of its neighbors in the west (the Germans) and in the east (the Russians). Germany’s rapid path towards unity surprised the new political decision-makers as well as the other actors in international politics. The ballast of artificially created and sustained friendships and antagonisms weighed heavier than the first democratic government in Poland wanted to admit to itself. Polish foreign policy was criticized by critics in the spring of 1990. However, sitting in the same boat with the unsuccessful delays to German unity, France and Great Britain, did not pay off for Poland. The demonstrative turn to the unified Germany found expression in November 1990 in the meeting of the heads of government Kohl and Mazowiecki in Frankfurt / Oder and Slubice. On this occasion, the signing of the German-Polish border treaty on November 14, 1990 was announced.

8. With the border treaty the problems of the post-war neighborhood should be put aside. The contractual structure of the future was reserved for a contract on good neighborliness and friendly cooperation. The message of the "Great Treaty" should be the perception of the historical chance for a real understanding and "political friendship" between Germany and Poland in a revolutionary changed European situation. The fields of cooperation should be opened up in an exemplary way for Europe. At the same time, the treaty had to address the new dangers arising with the collapse of the old order and the new neighborhood of rich and politically stable Germany with Poland, which is democratic but economically (and thus politically) unstable. A prevention strategy was required. In fact, the text of the treaty reflects the European function of shaping German-Polish relations, which goes far beyond the bilateral, and the European representative task of the Federal Republic of Germany.

9. The preamble to the treaty of June 17, 1991 already refers to economic cooperation as a necessary element in reducing the development gap and emphasizes the importance of the

Federal Republic of Germany on the approach of Poland to the EC. A novelty in German-Polish relations is the designation of the minorities as "natural bridges between the German and the Polish people". The contract gives a lot of space to regional and border cooperation. It should fill the neighborhood with life. A large number of cross-border projects are currently being launched.

10. If for Poland the contractual anchoring of the EC perspective was possibly a core matter in the treaty, then for the German side it was the detailed definition of the rights of the German minority in Poland. The minority regulation in the German-Polish treaty is already developing into a model for similar regulations that Poland is striving for with its eastern neighbors.

11. The German-Polish partnership agreement represents the most extensive and most concrete agreement in the series of new friendship agreements between a "Western European and an" Eastern European country. It shows that the political framework for qualitatively new German-Polish relations has never been so favorable as today. At the same time, the treaty reflects the dangers of disintegration in post-communist democracies and the asymmetry of post-war European development, which must be countered if the opportunities for a peaceful reorganization of Europe are not to be wasted quickly.

With the "Treaty between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Republic of Poland on good neighbors and friendly cooperation" of June 17, 1991, the political decision-makers in both countries expressed that in a dramatically changed situation in Europe they would like to see relations between the neighbors on the Oder and Want to develop Lausitzer Neisse on a new level.

© Friedrich Ebert Foundation | technical support | net edition fes-library | February 2002