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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » May 27, 2011
Politics & Society
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Closer Than Ever
May 27, 2011   
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Germany’s ambassador to Poland, Rüdiger von Fritsch, talks to Ewa Hancock.
It’s been nearly a year since you took over as German ambassador to Poland. In what areas do you think relations between the two countries should develop most vigorously?

Let me start by emphasizing that we’ve already come a very long way. This June, Poland and Germany will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the signing of the German-Polish Treaty on Good Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation. It is most impressive what our countries have achieved in these 20 years—especially for someone who remembers our bilateral relations in the 1980s.

That was the first time I was posted to our embassy here in Warsaw. Having returned to Poland as German ambassador, I found myself in some respects in a different country: we are both members of the European Union and NATO and we are close partners and friends. Our relations are excellent in all possible areas, including economic cooperation. Our economies are thoroughly intertwined. German companies rank first among foreign direct investors in Poland. However, there are still fields with huge potential, for example regenerative energy and energy efficiency. Many German companies are market leaders in green technologies that might be of interest to Polish partners.

Speaking of politics, high-level mutual contacts are very intensive. German President Christian Wulff has already visited Poland three times. Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, our foreign ministers and other Cabinet members are in regular close contact. So are other decision makers: members of parliament, local authorities, artists, and scientists.

In my opinion, direct ties between people are of the utmost importance because they make the fabric of German-Polish friendship. I am referring to youth and student exchanges, tourism and twinned cities—there are more than 600 such arrangements. Still, many Poles know Germany much better than most of my fellow countrymen know Poland. This is something where more can be done. However, organizations like the German-Polish Youth Exchange program and many others are doing a tremendous job to change that. Among my family and friends, there is a genuine curiosity to learn more about our neighbor. One of my children will use the Erasmus student exchange program to study one semester in Poland. And I am glad for every Varsovian who likes to spend a weekend in Berlin or to discover some other place in Germany. That is also why I feel that a further improvement in infrastructure—rail and flight connections, modern roads—is something that is worth additional efforts. I am referring to not only big projects like linking Warsaw and Berlin in a better way, but also to many small-scale, often regional measures that will help bring people together, for example those living close to the border.

The anniversary of the treaty on friendship and good cooperation will therefore be an opportunity to assess what has been achieved so far, to decide on future projects and to identify areas where even more progress should be possible.

On what points do Poland and Germany agree regarding the future of the EU? What differences do they have in this area?

Both Germany and Poland are very close in their approach to many fields of European policy. For example, we have a very similar outlook on issues related to economic stability and budget discipline. Poland and Germany adhere to the same principles of solidity and competitiveness. Thus both governments are very satisfied with what we have recently agreed on in this respect within the EU, especially the so-called Euro Plus Pact. Germany and Poland wish to see the EU as a strong and competitive player in a globalizing world. We both attentively follow developments in our common neighborhood—to the east and to the south. We are aware of the challenges facing the European Union in the months to come in the wake of events in North Africa. But we also have a special interest in making sure that the EU does not lose interest in the region east of our countries. We want our eastern neighbors to remain close to the European project. Germany is strongly committed to supporting the Polish EU presidency, which will start in July. The development of our relations with our southern neighbors but also of the Eastern Partnership will certainly be a common priority.

Germany is Poland’s most important trading partner. How important is Poland in German trade?

Very important: 26 percent of Poland’s exports are shipped to Germany and Poland’s role in German foreign trade is growing steadily. Poland continues to rank first among Germany’s trade partners in Central and Eastern Europe, ahead of the Czech Republic and Russia. At present, those sectors of Polish industry that export their products to Germany are doing the best in Poland. And two-thirds of the German exports to Poland are from industries that are traditionally strong in Germany—machinery and equipment, electronic products, cars, various commodities and chemical products. We expect the flow of trade between our countries to maintain its dynamic growth in 2011 and 2012.

The Polish market is important for countless German exporters, and many German companies have launched production here and have thereby created many new jobs in Poland. The best evidence of the high importance many German companies attach to the Polish market is the large number of foreign direct investment projects, which have exceeded the 20-billion-euro mark. I can hardly imagine a better sign of trust in terms of the opportunities available on the Polish market and the political stability and reliability of the country.

The Weimar Triangle has been revived recently. How would you comment on this?

Indeed, the Weimar Triangle of Germany, Poland and France has turned out to be very much alive and we are looking forward to its 20th anniversary in August. We remember the meeting of Polish President Bronis³aw Komorowski, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Warsaw in February. In May, the foreign ministers of the three countries met in Bydgoszcz. Earlier the European affairs committees of our parliaments convened in this format. Such meetings are very useful because they bring together decision makers from three European countries that have committed themselves to bringing Europe forward. They can sort out difficulties and give a new impetus to mutual cooperation. Such meetings are always useful, not only as an exchange of views, but also as an opportunity to see where we can take Europe together. And therefore, the Weimar triangle is not just about meetings, but also about joint initiatives—like the initiative by the foreign affairs and defense ministers to strengthen the European Union’s Common Security and Defense Policy. We hope the first results of this initiative will be visible during the Polish presidency.
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