The conference on 15 and 16 November in the Federal Foreign Office is a historic event. Entitled “A century of Germany’s Poland policy (1918-2018): Tradition – the betrayal of all civilised values – understanding – partnership”, this meeting commemorates and pays tribute to Poland and Germany’s shared past on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Poland’s independence. It has been organised by the German Poland Institute and the Federal Foreign Office.
In his opening address, Maas stressed the special nature of the close cooperation between the two countries today: “We don’t circumvent difficult issues. The necessary openness, the normality in dealing with each other – this is the happy state of Polish-German relations today.”
Remembering for the future
Maas recalled, among other things, the German crimes committed in World War II. He drew attention to the goal of creating a shared culture of remembrance.
With the aid of the programme “Europe 1918-2018: Preserving remembrance, shaping the future”, Germany has already funded 20 German-Polish remembrance projects. Looking to the commemorative year 2019, another programme will be launched in which German and Polish pupils will work together to trace the fates of victims of German war crimes in Poland and of Holocaust victims.
Together for Europe – and looking east
Maas also underscored Germany and Poland’s role in Europe: “What connects us is far greater than what separates us. We’re united in the pursuit of the same goal: we want to keep the EU of the 27 together. For our two countries have experienced for quite different reasons what division means and how cruelly the Iron Curtain split our continent down the middle. So who if not we Germans and Poles can keep the European Union together and overcome new divides?”
He went on to stress that Europe needed a genuine European Foreign and Security Policy, of which a European Ostpolitik must be a key element. He said that such an Ostpolitik could only be shaped in collaboration with Poland and the other partners in Central and Eastern Europe. It must have as its goals stability and security in Europe, closer economic integration between East and West, and the strengthening of democracy, the rule of law and human rights through closer exchange among civil societies, and must focus not only on Russia but also on Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, the Southern Caucasus and Central Asia. He noted that these states were pursuing their own interests to a much greater extent than in the past – and so, in his opinion, the time was right to inject fresh impetus.