Hard love, actually. Polish-German relations and a multi-speed Europe

Constructive Polish-German cooperation on European issues is today in the mutual interest of both Poland and Germany. Poland needs it in order to better cope with the risk of becoming stuck at the economic and political outer circle of Europe, with all the security risks attached. Germany needs it for the smooth functioning of its continental leadership and to avoid the adverse economic consequences of a multi-speed Europe.

Over the next months, Polish-German relations will mostly be tested in three EU areas: the Eurozone’s integration; the EU’s foreign policy towards Eastern Europe and Russia; and the EU’s asylum policy. In this text, we describe the state of play in the three areas, outlining the expected convergences as well as divergences. The final section discusses the importance of upcoming federal elections in Germany for each of these areas and for the Polish-German cooperation at large.

In particular, we conclude that there is a major risk that further developments in Poland in terms of rule of law and democratic standards, coupled with Warsaw’s position on the EU asylum policy, will serve as de facto two ‘litmus tests’ of the Polish government’s adherence to European values. This could widen the distance between Poland and the European centre, pushing Warsaw to assume increasingly Eurosceptic positions. Consequently, it would also render it difficult for Poland and Germany to cooperate in other spheres, even when their interests largely converge – such as the security and stability in Eastern Europe or the necessity to secure a smooth functioning of relations between the Eurozone and non-Eurozone.

All in all, as things are today, we should prepare for either just slightly more or much more strained Polish-German relations once the federal elections are over, with a pinch of the familiar ‘I love you – nor do I’ in the meantime.

This paper is inspired by the discussions held during the 1st Polish-German European Roundtable (Warsaw, 9-10 February 2017), a joint initiative of WiseEuropa and the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Warsaw.

About authors

Paweł Zerka, Head of Research Foreign Policy and International Relations

Adam Balcer, Project Manager Eurasia

The publication was prepared in cooperation with the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Warsaw

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