German-Polish European BLOG

Introduction: The future of “the Weimar Triangle”.

We decided that the German-Polish European BLOG would be launched with articles focused specifically on the cooperation within the Weimar Triangle, grouping France, Germany and Poland because its future is a particularly relevant issue for the EU these days.

*Adam Balcer

The reactivation of the French-German tandem as a vehicle for European integration after Emmanuel Macron’s victory in the French presidential elections has become a highly probable scenario. However, the Polish-French relations have been experiencing the most serious crisis since 1989. Last but not least, the key place occupied by France in the German foreign policy means that the scenario of a persistent downturn in French-Polish relationship could also have a negative spillover effect on the German-Polish relations.

(…) the Polish-French relations have been experiencing the most serious crisis since 1989.

The Weimar Triangle was established at the beginning of the 1990s, but it has run out of steam in recent years. The last summit of presidents/prime ministers took place six whole years ago. However, the Triangle’s reactivation during the Russian aggression against Ukraine confirmed its resilience in key historical moments. Between February 2014 and April 2015, the ministers of foreign affairs of the Triangle met five times. Unfortunately, since then they met only once, in the Summer of 2016. It is also very symptomatic that the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda, has visited France only once since winning the elections in 2015, but has had eight bilateral meetings with the German leaders in that same period of time.

The importance of the Weimar Triangle may substantially increase in the coming years, taking into consideration the fact that the EU is facing a key moment in its history. Emmanuel Macron, France’s new president, has declared that he aspires to reinvigorate the European integration through even closer cooperation with Germany. His declaration has been met with a positive response on the German side. The future shape of Europe will depend mostly on two factors: the setup of the eurozone and the relations between the latter and the member states which do not use a common currency. Meanwhile, after Brexit, Poland will take the UK’s place as the largest member state outside of the Eurozone.

The importance of the Weimar Triangle may substantially increase in the coming years (…)

Unfortunately, the Polish-French relations, which hit the bottom in 2016, have constituted the weakest angle of the Weimar Triangle from the very beginning. France’s importance to the Polish economy is, for obvious reasons, decisively smaller than that of Germany. The gap between the level of Polish-French relations in social and cultural spheres in comparison to the Polish-German and French-German ties in the above-mentioned fields can almost be described as inexistent. Moreover, the French language is losing popularity in Polish schools in favor of Spanish. Personal contacts between Poles and Frenchmen are considerably weaker than those between Poles and Italians or Spaniards.

As if this was not bad enough, the Polish-French political relations are in tatters. In 2016, the Polish government canceled the largest-ever helicopter contract in the history of Polish armed forces. Signed with Airbus and worth more than 3.5 billion USD, it had could have been further expanded in the coming years. The implementation of that project would visibly strengthen France’s position as the second foreign investor in Poland, right behind Germany. At the same time, because of the French-German nature of Airbus, this investment could be interpreted as a practical expression of Weimar Triangle cooperation in the defense sector and economy as such. Moreover, the Polish minister of national defense accused France without any evidence of reselling the Mistral warships bought by Egypt to Russia for a symbolic euro. In response, the French President canceled his visit to Poland. What is even more important, Poland became one of the main “negative” big issues of the French presidential campaign. In one of his interviews, Macron declared that “we all know who Le Pen’s allies are: the regimes of Orban, Kaczynski, Putin. These aren’t regimes with an open and free democracy. Every day they break many democratic freedoms.” Moreover, Macron promised, that if elected, he would urge the European Union to impose sanctions on Poland for violating democratic norms. His statements provoked a harsh reaction from Polish politicians.

Indeed, the Triangle can also serve as a facilitator of the decision-making process in the EU.

Taking into consideration these developments, the relaunch of the Weimar Triangle is needed now more than ever. It may facilitate the reconciliation process between Poland and France which would be a beneficial scenario also for Germany and the entire EU. Indeed, the Triangle can also serve as a facilitator of the decision-making process in the EU. Both texts published in the first edition of our blog foresee exactly such roles for the Weimar Triangle. Andrzej Byrt, the former Polish ambassador to Germany and France, believes that  “the only pragmatic answer is: “Audi alteram partem”, namely: “listen to the other side” and thus keep meeting and discussing”. Meanwhile, according to Barbara Kunz, a German expert from the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI), “merely attempting to prevent the EU from falling apart is no longer enough. New ideas are necessary and if they pass the Weimar test, chances are that they will also convince the remaining EU 24.”

*Adam Balcer – Project manager Eurazja at WiseEuropa