Germany’s, Poland’s leaders mark 1991 treaty with talks

WARSAW, Poland — The presidents of Germany and Poland on Thursday are expected to discuss the future of the European Union and of its trans-Atlantic ties as well as the situation in Ukraine and Belarus as they mark 30 years of a treaty on bilateral relations.

Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was on a brief visit to Warsaw for talks with his Polish counterpart, Andrzej Duda, and a meeting with Polish and German young people.

Poland is expected to reiterate its strong objections to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline under the Baltic Sea that is to supply Germany with Russian gas, bypassing Ukraine and Poland. Warsaw sees it as a political tool for increasing Moscow’s influence in Europe, while Berlin sees it as purely a business project.

Ahead of the meeting, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a newspaper article that Germany wants to “use this anniversary to look forward together with Poland” and that their interests are ”often closer than we think.”

“We want a strong Europe that is capable of acting, that does its bit for the trans-Atlantic partnership,” Maas wrote in an article for the daily Rheinische Post.

“And we don’t want a ‘two-speed Europe’ that would foreseeably reduce Poland and other countries in central and eastern Europe to second-class members,” Maas wrote.

“In short, we must build new bridges between Germany and Poland, between west and east in Europe – just like 30 years ago,” Maas wrote.

The treaty was signed in 1991 by then-German chancellor, Helmut Kohl, and Poland’s premier, Jan Krzysztof Bielecki. It came two years after Poland shed Moscow’s dominance and embarked on forging its independent West-oriented policy.

One of the main goals was to establish good, stable relations with its western neighbor, and put aside the long history of conflicts and warfare, including Nazi Germany’s brutal occupation of Poland during World War II. Berlin was a strong advocate of including Poland in Western structures like NATO, which it joined in 1999, and the EU, which it joined in 2004.