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Germany: Positive vibrations on the Warsaw-Berlin line


Polish-German contacts have intensified lately. Despite remaining
differences on a number of important issues, both countries have
been displaying strong will to search for elements of common
interest rather than those which continue to divide the two nations.

Slawek Szefs reports

Difficult issues simply require more patience and understanding.
That is why a delegation of the Polish parliament has just paid a
visit to Berlin, as did the minister of culture, while Warsaw played
host to several representatives of Chancellor Angela Merkel. There
has barely been a week without both countries' foreign ministers
exchanging phone calls to discuss bilateral and European affairs.

It is no secret that many important problems remain and will
probably continue to spark heated debate, but both governments are
far from hiding them under the carpet. To differ does not mean
turning one's back on each other.

Lothar Evers from the German Auschwitz Committee in Cologne.

'This is for sure. Not only direct neighbors, but direct neighbors
especially, have to cooperate. Even, if there are difficult issues.
And sometimes, on an NGO level, even against their government. It's
a very important thing. Especially, if the governments differ a lot,
this cooperation of the citizens is working.'

Joachim Ciecierski, head of Polish Radio's German Section says
improvement of bilateral relations at a social level has come much
ahead of progress in the political sphere.

'If you look at the social level, since many years, like five or six
years, you can see the improvement. There are many projects. There
was the Polish-German Year in 2005. There were 3000 projects carried
out in Poland as well as Germany. [...] And there's also the
political level where you can see the improvement. But this is since
a hundred days. Since Donald Tusk is the new Prime Minister of

Gestures are also important, sometimes more than official meetings.
They show greater understanding for the partner than the most
resounding declarations, adds Joachim Ciecierski.

'One gesture was the Berlinale [film festival] where Chancellor
Angela Merkel came to see Katyn, the new movie by Andrzej Wajda.
This was a very spontaneous gesture. She came specially to see the
movie. Normally, she doesn't come to see Polish movies.'

Lothar Evers agrees that the tone of official relations is often set
by contacts of minor calibre, but their importance can be overriding.

'I think this is really the foundation of relations. This is what
ordinary citizens are doing. To mention two important fields in
which cooperation is taking place. This is culture and the other one
is partnership of citizens and NGOs that are cooperating on very
small topics. But this is the foundation of bigger diplomacy. We are
a little bit used to seeing partnership between countries only on
very high diplomatic, European level. But I think this other citizen
level is equally important.'

Answering a question of a Polish journalist during a conference with
foreign press representatives in Berlin, Chancellor Angela Merkel
said: 'We must see constructive cooperation, despite differences of
opinion on many matters. This is a normal state of affairs in
contacts between countries. We must make good use of existing
mechanisms of cooperation to avoid an ice age in bilateral

The government in Warsaw fully shares this view. Its practical
application will be tested during the Polish visit of Chancellor
Angela Merkel in April.