Bonn and Warsaw Seek Fresh Start

But Poles worry East German events may mean less economic aid will come their way

THE dramatic developments in East Germany, which have totally dominated West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl's visit to Poland, have received strong support here. But the reactions are accompanied by clear apprehension over the political and economic consequences for this country.

As Mr. Kohl's visit resumed Saturday evening after a 28-hour interruption because of the East German events, talk of German reunification was creating noticeable trepidation among Poles.

It has brought strong Polish statements that reunification can only happen within the two Germanies' present borders. About a third of present-day Poland was once German territory.

Kohl has stated several times during his visit that Poland should not worry about this question, and that the 1970 treaty between Poland and West Germany, in which West Germany said that it was making no claims on Poland's borders, is binding.

The Polish western border, established after World War II, is a ``fundamental issue'' for Poland, according to government spokeswoman Malgorzata Niezabitowska. At the same time, experts stress that reunification is a long process, and that it might be premature to talk about it now.

``It can't come quickly, it is something for the future,'' says Kazimierz Woycicki, head of an independent foreign policy center in Warsaw.

For many here in Poland, the wounds from World War II have not yet healed. Although the Poles admire West Germany's economic advances, anti-German feelings still run high. In a poll recently, less than 5 percent felt positive toward the Germans. And now, when the world talks about a reunited Germany, Poles fear that they might, once again, be squeezed between the big powers in Europe.

There is also some concern here of the economic consequences of the dramatic changes in East Germany - that the amount of West German economic aid to Poland promised in almost-completed accords might now decrease.

``There is a completely new situation in East Germany, and we support it,'' said Aleksander Paszynski, the planning and housing minister. ``But the new situation could also be economically detrimental for Poland.''

``This will probably mean less West German money for Poland,'' says Mieczyslaw Tamala, a Polish expert on German affairs.

Kohl's visit has been viewed here with utmost importance. The last visit by a West German chancellor took place back in 1977, and this is also the first ever visit by a chancellor from the Christian Democratic Party.

West Germany is by far Poland's most important trading partner in the West. But there are still many unresolved questions between the two countries stemming from World War II in which 6 million Poles died, territories changed hands, and several million Germans were forced to emigrate to the new West Germany. Poland's western border continues to be disputed by some conservative groups in West Germany. Poles wish compensation for those who were sent to forced labor in Nazi Germany. Germans want to be able to take care of their war graves in Poland and demand minority rights for the Poles of German origin who have remained in Poland.

No doubt, Kohl's visit was in large part brought about by the formation of a new government in Warsaw, something that Kohl also acknowledged in his speech here Thursday.

``My visit is a sign of solidarity,'' he said. ``We are encouraging you to hold out on the chosen road, for Europe needs a free and stable Poland.''

In a Polish television interview, Kohl also talked about his desire ``to reach out my hand for reconciliation and to start a new era.''

These sentiments are echoed from the Polish side, where experts talk about a ``turning point'' and a ``new stage'' in Polish-West German relations.

A visit by Kohl to the St. Anne's Hill monastery, the scene of fierce fighting between Poles and Germans in the 1920s, was canceled after protests. And a visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp where around 4 million people, mostly Jews, were killed during the war, was postponed until tomorrow after Jewish protests against it being scheduled last Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath.

Kohl's visit will end tomorrow with a joint Polish-West German declaration. Already, 11 cooperation accords have been signed, dealing with scientific, technological, and environmental issues. And a huge economic aid packet for more than $1 billion has also been agreed upon. It is the largest single aid offer to Poland yet.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to Bonn and Warsaw Seek Fresh Start
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today