German-Polish European BLOG

Audi alteram partem

“The Triangle of Weimar”, designed as a communication and political platform, was meant to help shaping a new European order in a post-1989 era. It has its ups and downs. Today, three partners seem not to share a common vision of future Europa. However, the dialog has to be maintained, despite of current differences and difficulties.

*Andrzej Byrt

26 years ago Germany’s Foreign Minister H-D. Genscher’s proposal backed by his French opposite number, R. Dumas, to invite their Polish counterpart, Foreign Minister K. Skubiszewski, to Weimar in 1991, and to form an informal political structure since then called “the Triangle of Weimar” launched a new political format in the post-1989 era in Europe. The idea behind it was to acknowledge Poland’s leading role in dismantling the communist system in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) as well as to offer her political support in transforming her political and economic system into a democracy and thus preparing her for a future EU membership. The two largest democracies and economies of the continental part of the EU lent their hand to the largest newcomer from CEE aspiring to join the EU.

The idea behind it was to (…) offer her political support in transforming her political and economic system into a democracy

Since then, the foreign ministers of the three countries have met 24 times and the heads of states – 9 times, most frequently in the years 1999 – 2005 under President A. Kwaśniewski from Poland, Chancellor G. Schröder from Germany and President J. Chirac from France. Their good personal understanding has enabled them to profit from their mutual experience. There have also been irregular meetings of other ministers or representatives of the respective parliaments.

Then came the 2008 crisis with its economic, social and political consequences: economic slowdown, increased unemployment, public debts and deficits, and – as a result – a wave of new populism further strengthened by an unexpected influx of refugees and migrants from the Middle East, Africa and Asia seeking asylum and work. All these phenomena have created new tensions among EU member states. The EU seemed to lose its momentum, the United Kingdom decided to step out, the war in Syria went out of European control, Americans elected a seemingly anti-EU president, and populists seemed able to gain power in Austria, the Netherlands and France.  Yet, the worst-case scenarios have not materialized. In, these three important EU countries, pro-EU politicians won their respective elections, thus giving hope for a renewal of the European spirit and necessary reforms of the Union as a whole or at least of the Eurozone. The victory of Emanuel Macron in the presidential and parliamentary elections could be particularly relevant for the reversing of that trend.

The EU seemed to lose its momentum (…).Yet, the worst-case scenarios have not materialized.

Thus, the two- or multi-speed EU, as it is commonly called, may soon start deepening. And two of the three Weimar Triangle protagonists, Germany and France, are likely to lead the reform faction while the third one, i.e. Poland, seems to object it.

What then could and should be done by the three actors of the Weimar Triangle, when one of them, Poland, does not wish to immediately join the “Euro club” where Germany and France have been present from its very beginning? Poland is also against their project of a strengthened cooperation among the Eurozone members, distances itself from the Common Security and Defense Policy  and contests the relocation program of the refugees from Italy and Greece.

The only pragmatic answer is: Audi alteram partem, “listen to the other side” and thus keep meeting and discussing.

The only pragmatic answer is: Audi alteram partem, “listen to the other side” and thus keep meeting and discussing. That is the oldest and also the most democratic method of finding a compromise with a partner who, for one reason or another, does not – at the moment – admit arguments understood as true by the others. We are in a new political situation.

In a draft of the main future fields of reform of the EU we can find, among other things, the subjects of migration/asylum policy, security, economic growth and its social equilibrium, tax policies etc., topics vital also for Poland. Within that broad set of questions, there are plenty of uncontroversial fields of common interests which could strengthen the EU’s effort to improve its functioning and to gain the necessary acceptance of European societies.

Poland’s new authorities joining their two partners in the Weimar Triangle: France and Germany in specific European projects (the broadening of the democratic mandate of the European Parliament, European border management, CSDP missions and operations, EU trade competitiveness, agricultural policy, etc.) is only a question of time. The sooner the better, although some issues, such as migration/asylum, Poland’s immediate accession to the eurozone, or some social matters, seem irreconcilable.

Although Poland in comparison with Germany (around 20 percent of GDP PPP of the EU without the UK) and France (almost 15 percent) still remains a minor partner (5 percent), its economy in the coming years is going to be characterized by vibrant dynamism (a 3 percent average pace of GDP growth between 2017 and 2022) that may create an invigorating stimulus, also for other EU member countries.

Wise partners are not short-sighted. On the contrary: a long-term vision and wisdom encourage all of them to weigh properly the pros and cons of their common interest.

Wise partners are not short-sighted. On the contrary: a long-term vision and wisdom encourage all of them to weigh properly the pros and cons of their common interest: a strong, efficient and just European Union. And Poles have for years had the highest EU approval score. Thus, in the years to come, the continuation of Weimar dialogue with its former intensity and on the same levels will be the wisest form of avoiding unnecessary conflicts which will persist between the EU reform-oriented governments of France and Germany, on the one hand and Poland’s authorities having a different vision of that reform. Future political change in Poland is likely to reduce the divide between the three Weimar Triangle partners.


*Andrzej Byrt – The former Polish ambassador to Germany (1995-2001, 2002-2006) and France (2014-2016).