Last updated in March 2008
Since 1989, German-Polish relations have gathered an impressive momentum. The fact that the two countries share interests in many areas and are both members of the EU and NATO provides a sound basis for relations.
Federal Chancellor Merkel visited Poland in March 2007. She had first visited the country as Federal Chancellor in early December 2005, just a few days after her election.
Federal President Köhler visited Poland in May and June 2006. He had previously visited the country in July 2004, his first visit abroad after taking office.
The Polish President Kaczyński visited Germany in March 2006, one of several such visits. Prime Minister Kaczyński also paid a visit to Germany in October 2006.
During their visits to Berlin in December 2007 shortly after the government was formed, Prime Minister Tusk and Foreign Minister Sikorski reaffirmed Poland’s will to reintensify relations with Germany and create a partner-like relationship based on trust.
Contributory factors to the special quality of relations between Germany and Poland include the former’s unconditional admission of guilt for the Second World War and its renouncement of subsequent material claims after the war. The Federal Government supports neither private restitution claims by expellees nor complaints like that submitted by the private Prussian Trust to the European Court of Human Rights. Federal Chancellor Merkel has repeatedly reaffirmed this position.
There are over 600 town and region twinning arrangements between Poland and Germany. Each year, some 150,000 young people take part in officially funded youth exchange programmes. In Germany alone, around 6,000 German-Polish couples get married every year.
A cornerstone of cooperation in the area of social policy are regulations allowing Polish workers to be employed in Germany. Germany is the principal destination for Polish migrant workers.
For many years, Germany has been Poland's most important trading partner by far, and Poland is Germany's principal trading partner in Central and Eastern Europe. In 2007, bilateral trade was worth a record EUR 60.2 billion (exports to Poland: EUR 36.1 billion; exports from Poland: EUR 24.1 billion). Poland’s main exports to Germany are machinery, vehicles, household appliances, food and furniture. German companies’ principal exports are plant and machinery, vehicles and chemical and plastic products. In 2006, Poland ranked 10th among buyers of German exports and 13th among suppliers of German imports.
Germany is among the top major investors in Poland. Since Poland’s change of political system in 1989/1990, aggregate German direct investments in Poland of at least EUR 1 million have been worth some EUR 12 billion (including EUR 2.7 billion in 2006). Major German investments in Poland focus on the automotive and mechanical engineering industries, the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, banking and insurance, the wholesale and retail trade as well as the energy sector. On top of this are the investments of less than EUR 1 million by small and medium-sized companies, especially in the border region, which do not appear in statistics. In terms of both the number of investors and the total amount invested, Germany is probably the leading supplier of foreign capital to Poland.
The abolition of passport controls at the German-Polish border since the end of 2007 will further facilitate cross-border cooperation.
The work of the cultural mediators and political and private foundations together with the more than 600 German-Polish twinning arrangements, the activities of the Länder, districts and municipalities as well as schools, universities and scientific societies make for an intensive cultural exchange.
The work of the cultural mediators in Poland is based on the German-Polish cultural agreement of 14 July 1997 (which came into force on 4 January 1999). On 1 September 2005, the Agreement between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Republic of Poland on the Founding of a German-Polish Binational School in Warsaw, the Willy Brandt School, was signed. The agreement still awaits final ratification.
Each year, there are some 40 German teachers working at various schools throughout Poland. The Goethe Institutes in Warsaw and Cracow, with reading rooms in Wrocław, Katowice, Poznan and Szczecin, and a number of partner libraries are playing an important role in providing information and organizing programmes and language courses. In 1993, the German Historical Institute in Warsaw was the first institute of its kind to begin work in one of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
Various German-language study programmes, the Viadrina European University, which was refounded in Frankfurt/Oder in 1991, and the programmes offered by the Neisse University and the International Graduate School Zittau – all of these serve to intensify mutual academic and cultural exchange. The Max Planck Society has a group of junior scientists working at a biological research institute in Warsaw.
The German-Polish Youth Office (DPJW), set up in 1991 by an intergovernmental agreement, promotes encounters between young people from the two countries. Since 1993, some 1.6 million young Germans and Poles have participated in DPJW projects.
The German minority in Poland numbers about 300,000, most with German and Polish nationality. Ninety per cent of them live in Silesia. The rights of the minorities are guaranteed in the Polish constitution and by the Council of Europe's Minorities' Convention. In January 2005, a new minorities law entered into force permitting, among other things, the use of minority languages as a second language at local level. The minority organizations have approximately 70,000 members, most of them belonging to an umbrella organization based in Opole.
The German minority is represented by a deputy in the Polish parliament. At regional level, in Opole Province, it has seven seats in the provincial parliament making it the third-largest force. It has formed a coalition government with the Civic Platform (PO) and Polish People’s Party (PSL). At local level, its candidates have won the mayoral elections in 22 municipalities.