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Poland: Bilateral Relations Poland

28.08.2019 - Article

Political relations

German-Polish relations are of great importance for both sides. Since 1989, these relations have developed a dynamism unparalleled in recent history. Shared interests in many areas and the two countries’ trust-based partnership in the European Union and NATO provide a sound basis for the future. German-Polish intergovernmental consultations take place regularly.

Numerous political talks and meetings were held in 2018 and 2019. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki paid his first official visit to Berlin on 16 February 2018, not long after taking up office. In his foreign policy speech to the Sejm, Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said: “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 in Berlin on 23 October 2018 and was followed by a concert (Centenary of the Rebirth) in Konzerthaus Berlin. Intergovernmental consultations took place in Warsaw on 2 November 2018, with the Foreign Ministers agreeing in a joint declaration on a positive agenda. An international conference on a century of German policy on Poland was held at the Federal Foreign Office on 15 and 16 November 2018 and included a keynote speech by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on the “new European Ostpolitik”. Mass met his Polish counterpart Czaputowicz in Berlin on 13 December 2018 and paid a return visit to him in Warsaw on 12 April 2019. Maas also visited Poland from 31 July to 1 August 2019 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the start of the Warsaw Uprising on 1 August 1944 and gave a well-received speech in the Warsaw Uprising Museum.

Poland has been working closely with Germany and France since 1991 as part of the Weimar Triangle, in which trilateral talks are held regularly at various levels.

Regional and cross‑border cooperation, hundreds of town twinning arrangements and the partnerships between German Länder and Polish voivodeships also testify to the breadth and closeness of relations between the two countries.

Economic relations

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. In the first half of 2019, German companies did more business with Poland than they did with the United Kingdom. Trade volume with Poland increased by five percent, thus exceeding 60 billion euros for the first time and making the country Germany’s sixth-largest trading partner. The main German exports to Poland are machinery, motor vehicles and vehicle parts, food, electronics, electrical goods and plastics.

On top of this are the Investments of less than one 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 increasingly investing in technologically advanced manufacturing and services and are expanding their research and development activities in Poland.

Cultural and educational exchange

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 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 work of the main German intermediaries in Poland is based on the German-Polish cultural agreement of 14 July 1997, which entered into force on 4 January 1999.

Poland is among the countries with the largest number of people learning German. Around 1.9 million pupils take German classes at school. Measures to support the learning of German are a priority area of German cultural relations policy in Poland.

The branches of the Goethe-Institut in Warsaw and Kraków, with additional reading rooms and partner libraries, and German-Polish cultural societies in major Polish cities provide information and organise 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), which was set up in 1991 by an intergovernmental agreement, promotes encounters between German and Polish youth and school groups, as well as trilateral projects with third countries.

Since the late 1950s, the German Academic Exchange Service has provided funding enabling more than 70,000 Polish and 27,000 German academics to pursue research in the partner country. Various German-language study programmes at Polish universities, the European University Viadrina, which was re‑founded in Frankfurt/Oder in 1991, and the programmes offered by Neisse University, the universities of Rostock, Greifswald and Wismar, International Institute Zittau and the Centre for Polish Studies at the universities of Halle-Wittenberg and Jena all serve to further 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 German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation work with Polish partner organisations.

German minority

The German minority in Poland numbers between 300,000 and 350,000 people, according to its own estimates. However, the census of 2011 calculated a figure of 148,000. Many members of the minority have both German and 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 in Poland – VdG) based in Opole. Minorities’ rights 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. Among other things, it provides for the use of minority languages as second languages at local level and the erection of bilingual town signs. The German minority is increasingly making use of this option in the area where most of the minority lives.

The group 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 a municipal council election and several mayoral elections.

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