German-Polish relations are of tremendous importance for both sides and since 1989 have developed a dynamism unparalleled in recent history. Shared interests in many areas and the two countries’ partnership based on mutual trust in the European Union and NATO provide a sound basis for current and future relations. German-Polish intergovernmental consultations take place regularly.
2018 was marked by numerous political talks and meetings. Prime Minister Morawiecki came to Berlin on his first official visit to Germany on 16 February 2018, not long after taking up office. Foreign Minister Czaputowicz declared in his foreign policy speech in the Sejm: “Germany is our most important economic and political partner in the EU.” The German-Polish Forum, attended by the Presidents of both countries, convened at the Federal Foreign Office on 23 October. It was followed by a concert (Centenary of the Rebirth) in the Berlin Konzerthaus. Intergovernmental consultations were held in Warsaw on 2 November, during which the Foreign Ministers agreed in a joint declaration on a positive agenda. On 15 and 16 November, a major conference on the centenary of German-Polish relations took place at the Federal Foreign Office, where Foreign Minister Maas gave a keynote speech on the new Ostpolitik. On 13 December, Foreign Minister Czaputowicz met Foreign Minister Maas on his first official visit to Berlin. Since 1991, Poland has been working together closely with Germany and France as part of the Weimar Triangle. Within this framework, trilateral talks are held regularly at different levels. Regional and cross‑border cooperation, hundreds of town twinning arrangements and the partnerships between German federal states and Polish voivodeships also testify to the breadth and closeness of relations between the two countries.
The two countries’ economies are closely interlinked. For more than two decades, Germany has been Poland’s most important trading partner by far. More than a quarter of all Polish exports go to Germany. Poland is also of considerable importance for German foreign trade.
The principal German exports to Poland are machinery, motor vehicles and vehicle parts, food, electronic and electrical goods as well as plastics.
In terms of both the number of investors and the total amount invested, German companies rank first among foreign direct investors in Poland. Aggregate German direct investment in Poland since the country’s change of political system in 1989-1990 stands at approximately 30 billion euros.
On top of this are the investments of less than 1 million euros by small and medium‑sized companies, which do not appear in official statistics. A large number of such investments have been made, especially in the border regions. Most German investments are greenfield investments, only a small portion being made through takeovers or in connection with the privatisation of state‑owned enterprises. German companies are also investing increasingly in technologically advanced manufacturing and services and are expanding their research and development activities in Poland.
Cultural and educational exchanges
The intensive exchange between the two countries in the cultural and education sectors is fostered at the institutional level by cultural intermediaries such as the Goethe-Institut, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the German-Polish Youth Office, as well as by political and private foundations and a close‑knit civil‑society network. In addition, hundreds of schools, universities and scientific societies are engaged in a wide range of activities in this area. The 2016 anniversary was marked by a wide range of events showcasing the quality and importance of this network.
The work of the principal German intermediaries in Poland is based on the German-Polish cultural agreement of 14 July 1997, which entered into force on 4 January 1999.
Nowhere in the world do so many people learn German as a foreign language as in Poland – around 1.9 million pupils at Polish schools are learning the language. Offering measures to support the learning of German is one focus of German foreign cultural policy in Poland.
The branches of the Goethe-Institut in Warsaw and Cracow, with additional reading rooms and partner libraries, and German-Polish cultural societies in major Polish cities are active in providing information and organising cultural programmes and language courses. The Federal Foreign Office supports projects in the realms of music, film, literature and the visual and performing arts as well as cultural, historical and civic education measures for young Germans and Poles.
Since 1993, German and Polish historians have been working together at the German Historical Institute in Warsaw, mainly on topics relating to Germany and Poland’s shared history.
The German-Polish Youth Office (GPYO), set up in 1991 by an intergovernmental agreement, promotes encounters between German and Polish youth and school groups as well as trilateral projects together with third countries.
Since the late 1950s, the DAAD has provided funding enabling more than 70,000 Polish and 27,000 German scientists and academics to pursue research in the partner country. Various German-language study programmes at Polish universities, the Viadrina European University, which was re‑founded in Frankfurt/Oder in 1991, and the programmes offered by the Neisse University, the Universities of Rostock, Greifswald and Wismar, the International Graduate School Zittau and the Centre for Polish Studies at the Universities of Halle-Wittenberg and Jena all serve to intensify mutual academic and cultural exchange. In addition, the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science (MPG), the German-Polish Science Foundation, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation), the Academy of Sciences as well as the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation are cooperating with Polish partner organisations.
The German minority in Poland numbers between 300,000 and 350,000, according to its own estimate. However, the 2011 census put the number at 148,000, though this figure is questioned by the German minority because of the methods used in the census. Many members of the minority have German as well as Polish citizenship. The German minority is the largest of the country’s 13 recognised national or ethnic minorities. The members of the German minority live mainly in Upper Silesia (more than 80 percent of them in the voivodeships Opole and Silesia). Most of the minority organisations belong to an umbrella organisation (the Association of German Social and Cultural Societies, VdG) based in Opole. The rights of the minorities are guaranteed in the Polish constitution and the German-Polish Treaty on Good Neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation of 17 June 1991. In January 2005, a Minorities Act entered into force that also provides for the use of minority languages as second languages at local level and the putting up of bilingual place name signs. The German minority is increasingly making active use of this option in its main settlement area.
The German minority is currently represented by a deputy in the Polish parliament. At regional level, it is a strong political force in Opole voivodeship and part of the regional government there. Its candidates have won several seats in regional elections and numerous seats in district elections as well as winning a municipal council election and several mayoral elections.
This text is intended as a source of basic information. It is regularly updated. No liability can be accepted for the accuracy or completeness of its contents.