Marek Kuchcinski for the Berliner Zeitung: Germany should take more account of Poland's opinions

Unity, Law and Freedom in Europe and for Europe

German politician Wolfgang Schäuble recently said in an interview with the Handelsblatt newspaper: “I am angry with myself for failing to see the threat posed by Russia. Lech Kaczynski was right. This is another time when a German politician admits that Germany was wrong in its policy towards Russia and the whole of Eastern Europe and made a mistake by ignoring the warnings of the Polish president. Recall, Lech Kaczyński - he alarmed that Russian imperialism was gaining strength and would not stop in Georgia, but would soon attack Ukraine, then Moldova, the Baltic states, and then perhaps even Poland. Today, the thesis that Russian policy is driven by Putin's imperial aspirations has become a mainstream view. It's not about finding fault right now. I agree with Wolfgai Schäuble that the government of Angela Merkel cannot be held responsible for the fiasco of Germany's policy. The entire German political elite has become addicted to the vision of cheap gas from Russia. The fundamental issue, however, is to draw conclusions from this catastrophe and create a new architecture of mutual relations in which Polish opinions on key European problems will be taken into account by Germany to a greater extent.
I read with interest the article by Wolfgang Schäuble published in the Polish daily "Rzeczpospolia" (October 19, 2022) entitled "Europe is not dead yet." In it, he encouraged to enhanced cooperation between France, Germany and Poland, which, by renewing the Weimar Triangle, "...should take the lead over the European defense community...". He also polemicized with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki's assessment of the European Union, who pointed to the existence in the EU of “… an oligarchic system dominated by Brussels, Berlin and Paris. A system that ignores Poland's security interests, violated by Russia's war against Ukraine. At the same time, he rejected Poland's claim for war reparations from Germany.
All these issues are difficult and at the same time important for European policy. What makes politics fascinating is the ability to deal with problems so difficult that they exceed the capabilities of a single person and require political cooperation to solve them. Therefore, we can be grateful that the former President of the Bundestag took up this subject. I perceive his statements as a call for a partnership dialogue aimed at placing German-Polish relations on new, solid foundations. I share this position. As the Speaker of the Polish Sejm, I had the opportunity to personally meet Mr. Wolfgang Schäuble as President of the Bundestag and had the honor of working with him. Already in 2016, during the meeting of the Weimar Triangle in Paris, I drew attention to the problem of the "revival of Russian power", the consequence of which is Russian aggression against Ukraine. Today, Polish and German assessments of Russian imperialism are almost identical. 70 % of Germans and an even greater percentage of Poles are in favor of giving Ukraine, which is defending itself against Russian aggression, all possible support. Let's use this potential to create such forms of cooperation to protect the sovereignty of our states and the identity of nations, not forgetting about strengthening the entire European community.
In the current situation, the European Union needs to expand the group of countries that are its driving force, and Poland is a natural partner for France and Germany in Central Europe. Poland has no leadership aspirations. The pursuit of hegemony is foreign to the Polish political tradition. It is our tradition to respect the sovereign equality of both individuals and nations, in accordance with the slogan: "Equal with equals, free with free". The Weimar Triangle can be a formula of fundamental importance, helping to harmonize different traditions and different approaches to European cooperation and integration. Undoubtedly, in many issues, the ideas about the further development of the European Union are divergent. Tripartite dialogue could, however, strengthen trust in all directions, weaken fears and objectify conflict-generating issues. The simplest path would be to gradually restore the regularity of political consultations. However, there is an urgent need to create more opportunities for dialogue on existing divergences and different interests.

Today I would like to present in a few points how I see the future of the EU from the Polish perspective in the context of Polish-German relations.
Firstly, the readiness to take up talks is a positive premise in which honesty and courage to tackle difficult topics should be appreciated. All the more so that the essential assumptions of Germany's security and foreign policy have been revised in recent months. Therefore, I agree that the success of this process depends to a large extent on conducting it in dialogue with our neighbours, especially with Poland.
Secondly, two issues are of existential importance for Poland: Ukraine's victory in the war with Russia and the reform of the European Union. In both, cooperation between Poland and Germany may play a fundamental role. However, in the plans of the currently ruling camp in Germany, these issues are handled in an unacceptable way. Chancellor Scholz makes Ukraine's membership of the EU conditional on its readiness to move away from the unanimity rule to a majority system in those areas which, according to the treaties, remain the prerogatives of the member states, such as foreign and security policy.
I believe that such a development of the Union would be detrimental to European integration, it would lead to the dominance of countries with greater voting potential, combined with a tradition of domination that is fatal for Europe. Such a solution would also be contrary to the principle of subsidiarity, which is fundamental for the European Union, and would lead to limiting the participation of smaller states in the decision-making process of the community, which in the long run would lead to their alienation and rejection of joint responsibility for the decisions taken. Poland has repeatedly warned against breaking these fundamental rules - introduced into European cooperation by the Founding Fathers - precisely in the name of the cohesion of the Communities being created. Currently, these rules protect us from the disastrous decisions of some important EU countries. After all, what saved the European Union from inviting Putin to the EU summit in June 2021, if not minority opposition?
All EU Member States are democracies and their governments are held to account by their voters. The idea that one of them would, for example, get involved in a military operation because it was outvoted in Brussels is very dangerous, because it would lead more countries to leave the EU. The main German institutions representing the interest of the state, such as the Rechnungshof, the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe and the Bundesbank, are already reacting to this. They are concerned about non-treaty tendencies to transfer the powers of the parliaments of the member states to the EU level. Also in Poland, we believe that it is the Member States, which enjoy the greatest democratic legitimacy, and not the EU institutions, that must decide on the direction and priorities of the Union's activities.
I think that in this area we should build a common strategy, showing that laboriously worked out unity, respect for the rules and freedoms of the Member States is, in the long run, a more solid foundation for cooperation than the speed or effectiveness of decisions taken. Paradoxically, the EU's reaction to Russia's aggression against Ukraine has shown that it can act quickly by introducing a package of sanctions. This was possible because all EU countries, regardless of their potential, recognized that they had to defend the values and principles that underpinned the European community of states.
Another, third, issue is the effects of the war in Ukraine and its European consequences. The cooperation of countries in the Baltic and Black Sea basins is gaining new importance. What attitude do the states of the Weimar Triangle take in this situation? Germany is changing its current security policy. France is the only nuclear power in the Union with a seat in the UN Security Council. For Poland, the most important thing is to strengthen NATO's eastern flank in alliance with the US. But at the same time, it is important for us to build a common European strategic identity in dialogue with France and Germany. Poland is an old democracy with traditions of coexistence with other nations, understood not as ethnic groups, but as civic communities. Our several hundred years of experience of operating within the framework of the EU structure dates back to the 14th century. It tells us that the condition for the existence and development of any union, both the former Polish-Lithuanian one and the current European one, is respect for the sovereign equality of states. For we know that "No one is perfect enough to govern others without their consent." Therefore, the very idea of managing the Union by a group of its largest member states - a kind of European "directorate" - is very risky. In Poland, it would also be unacceptable out of respect for our neighbors in the region, who have no less dignity and no less right to decide about their fate. Therefore, the Union should be a Europe of states of solidarity. We have called for this many times during meetings of the heads of parliaments of EU countries.
Fourthly, I agree with the President that our energies should be focused on building the future. But probably no one knows better than the Germans that it is possible after the crimes of the past have been settled and compensated for. The Germans seem to understand this best and in the name of justice they compensate members of their own nation who have been harmed by the lawlessness of the political system of the Third Reich. They also do this to many other European nations in the name of peaceful coexistence. They were able to pay compensation to France until 2010 for damages from the First World War! However, they did not do this to Poles, using legal complexities and political evasions. In this matter, we need courageous politicians who are able to accept the effort of sincere reconciliation.
Finally: Poland and Germany have achieved a lot in the last 30 years. The area of cooperation between societies, economy and politics has become much tighter. However, the ongoing challenge is learning to respect each other. The German anthem can be a signpost: united in the Union, based on the law and respect for mutual freedom. This is a key task for the stability of the European Union, whose motto is 'United in Diversity'.

                    Marek Kuchciński, Speaker of the Sejm of the 8th term, 20 November 2022


Parliamentary committees

Law and Justice



Skip to content