AS the East German government tries to stop the flow of Romanian refugees from pouring into the country, the West Berlin Senate has another problem on its hands - what to do about the thousands of Poles who flood the city on daily shopping trips. Since the Berlin Wall started to crumble last November, East Europeans, particularly Poles, have taken advantage of the relatively relaxed border controls.
In an attempt to control unwieldy crowds, the West Berlin Senate has ruled that from July 1 all Poles coming into the city will have to meet the same entry requirements as for West Germany and obtain a valid visa. This date coincides with date for implementing a state treaty on the economic, monetary, and social union of the Germanys. At the same time, all border controls inside Germany will be eliminated.
Senate spokesman Werner Kollhoff denies that the move is aimed at fueling anti-Polish sentiment, but rather says it is ``to try to stop smugglers and crime,'' which have been on the upswing in recent months.
However, Atonement Initiative, a West Berlin peace organization, has strongly criticized the visa requirement for Polish visitors. At a time when German borders are opening up and visas are becoming unnecessary, ``such measures appear shortsighted and unwarranted,'' the group says.
Tomasz Bartoszewecz, the head of the Polish Customs Control, came to West Berlin last week to explore ways of cooperating with the authorities and smooth ruffled feathers. Mr. Bartoszewecz has invited tax inspectors from West Berlin to visit Poland in the coming weeks to discuss further cooperation concerning Polish visitors, says an official at the Polish Mission in West Berlin.
``Something has to be done to help the shoppers, and not hinder them,'' the Polish official says.
To many West Berliners, the Poles have become such an irritating factor that some are privately saying that the wall should be rebuilt. The Aldi supermarkets, for example, have been so overwhelmed with Polish customers that Berliners say they have been frightened away by the long lines. Aldi now limits purchases by Poles to two cartons of goods. The supermarket chain is planning a store near a border crossing on the outskirts of Berlin designed primarily for Polish shoppers.