The Treaty on Good Neighbourliness turns 25 – and as a highlight of this anniversary year, a bilateral conference was held on Wednesday (16 November) in the Federal Foreign Office to honour German-Polish cooperation at local level. An evening reception for people of Polish descent living in Germany was hosted by Foreign Minister Steinmeier.
Anniversary of the German-Polish Treaty on Good-Neighbourliness
25 years of good-neighbourly relations – hundreds of events have taken place in Germany and Poland over the past eleven months to mark this achievement. Many people still recall “the scars of German-Polish history from [their] own personal experience”, as Foreign Minister Steinmeier said in his words of welcome. Today’s relationship did not evolve without work. “It’s the result of ever closer ties between our countries, over decades, built on many interpersonal initiatives and contacts.”
However, good relations do not come automatically, as Minister of State Roth underscored in his opening speech. He stressed that they have to be nurtured and protected day in, day out, noting that recently in particular “occasional jarring notes” have been heard in our otherwise harmonious bilateral relationship.
More than 500 German-Polish partnerships at local level
The work of the 500 representatives of German-Polish local partnerships who attended the event on Wednesday is thus all the more important. German-Polish relations at local level form a close web of connections: districts, towns and municipalities work closely together, be it through youth exchanges, joint cultural projects or economic cooperation.
A solid foundation of close interpersonal connections has thus evolved, Steinmeier stated, which serves as a basis for political cooperation between Germany and Poland. According to Minister of State Roth, close cooperation at local level has even played its part in changing political perceptions. By way of example he mentioned the peaceful revolution of 1989, which began in Gdansk, was taken up by the protest movement in Leipzig, and ultimately laid the cornerstone for German unification and the healing of Europe.
German Government support for German-Polish relations
The conference focused on bilateral training concepts, language promotion and migration and integration. Participants discussed these issues in various panel events and workshops.
The German Government supports the further expansion of German-Polish relations. One example mentioned by Minister of State Roth was that more Polish lessons are to be offered in German schools. In the coming week, preparatory talks for a round table with the Polish Government are scheduled to take place in Berlin, to address issues of concern to people of Polish descent in Germany and the German minority in Poland.
The German Bundestag has moreover decided to increase the funding for the German-Polish Youth Office by one million euros for 2017.
To round the day off, a gala reception was hosted by Foreign Minister Steinmeier in honour of Poles and people of Polish descent in Germany.