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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » June 25, 2008
International Relations
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Merkel Talks With Tusk in Gdańsk
June 25, 2008 By W.Ż.    
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Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk invited Germany to work together with his country to establish a Museum of World War II during a brief visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the northern city of Gdańsk June 16.

n Merkel, meanwhile, said she supported joint Polish-Swedish plans for an Eastern Partnership aimed at strengthening regional cooperation with the EU's eastern neighbors.

"When the concept [of the Museum of World War II] is ready, we will invite our European partners, including our German partners, to work together on some of the museum's exhibitions, so that the museum can become part of a heritage which takes different viewpoints into consideration," Tusk said in Gdańsk. Merkel offered Poland "any help and support" in the project.

The corner stone for the museum in Gdańsk will be laid next year, on the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II, which started when Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. Tusk added the museum should not only focus on World War II, but also the post-war period until the collapse of communism in 1989.

Journalists questioned Tusk and Merkel about plans to build a "Visible Sign" center in Berlin devoted to the history of Germans and other nationalities expelled from Poland and elsewhere after the end of World War II in 1945. Tusk said the issue needed "consistency, patience and a search for the wisest way to proceed." The center is hugely controversial in Poland, where many say it would unjustly depict Germans as the victims of World War II.

Initial German media reports highlighted what they said was the friendly atmosphere of Merkel's visit to Gdańsk. Press reports said it was a good sign that the talks between Merkel and Tusk did not broach the thorny subject of whether Erika Steinbach, the leader of the German Union of the Expelled (BdV), would be part of the "Visible Sign" project. Tusk only said he hoped Merkel would make "an appropriate decision."

Many in Poland are unhappy that the Union of the Expelled is supporting claims of compensation against Poland by Germans expelled from what is now Polish territory after World War II.

German media have commented that Polish-German relations have improved significantly since Tusk's government took office late last year and note that Merkel has announced joint consultations by the Polish and German governments. German commentators point to the contrast with Poland's previous coalition government headed by Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński's right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party, which they considered anti-German and anti-European.
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