While the Spanish are protesting on the streets against Germany’s proposals how to fight the crisis and the Greeks are comparing Angela Merkel to Adolf Hitler, the Poles are still in favor of German European policy. They also think the increase of Germany’s importance in Europe will be beneficial for Poland. The traditional Polish fear from Germany’s dominance is no more to be found. But this German friendly nation feels itself, at the same time, not treated by Berlin as an equal partner in the EU.
It does not come as a surprise when we compare Germany’s influence, economy and importance in the EU with the Poland’s one. Germany was and still is a leader. As the Poles themselves admit (59%) this role has even grown since the beginning of the crisis. But it is somehow ironic that the great Polish-German partnership, as it is often stressed by officials in Berlin and Warsaw, is not often noticed by the majority of Poles who are so positively oriented towards Germany as rarely any other society.
According to Poles Germany tends to realize its own interests in the European Union while respecting the interests of other countries (55%). The majority of them continue sharing the opinion that Germany contributes to a better cooperation in Europe (58%) and bring European integration further (67%).
The positive results do not mean, however, that Polish society judges Germany’s activities without any critical approach. While comparing the research results from the last years (2005, 2008, 2010 and 2012) one can clearly see that the number of negative answers has grown in the recent three years (from 12 to 29% depending on the questions asked). The reasons are not difficult to explain. In the media there are more and more news reports concerning the German role in fighting the crisis. The coverage is, however, usually accompanied by some very negative comments or pictures showing how the Southern nations suffer because of the austerity measures or how their governments negotiate toughly with Berlin.
These positive opinions on German European policy are very much in line with the good marks that Poles give Polish-German relations. Nearly three quoters of Poles find them good (72%). These opinions have not changed in recent years. The people responding this way are also more supportive toward Germany’s actions in the EU. But, interesting enough, while indicating which of the two countries has won more benefits from the Polish-German relations in the recent years, Poles say it is the German side.
Is a partnership to come?
The Polish government, going to Berlin for Polish-German governmental consultations taking place on 14 November, can use these results to strengthen its position. Berlin might be delighted to learn there is a country that does not criticize its policy as others do. Who doesn’t like to hear positive opinions about one’s self?
But there is still a clear sign for Berlin coming out from the result – that the German government needs to implement concrete improvements in the relations with Poland. The Poles, having positive opinions, expect more – both from bilateral relations as well as from Berlin at the EU-level. Now, when the main controversial questions in Polish-German relations have been already cleared (which does not mean there is no more need to talk about the past and to take care of its objective presentation), it is high time to make the Polish-German partnership a reality.
There are plenty of areas to show Germany’s support towards Warsaw, for example:
- As a “ pre-in“ Eurozone member Poland would like to be involved in the decision process concerning the EU-reforms, including the future of the Eurozone. German support could help Poland to stay in the room during negotiations.
- As the biggest netto receiver Poland stands to lose a lot if the multiannual budget is cut. In spite of the Brits’ plans to possibly veto the budget, Berlin will still have a voice on the future EU spending.
- In Germany the new energy policy, based on closing nuclear plants and using green energy, is already a reality. At the same time Poland is planning to build its first nuclear plant and continue to operate on coal. As energy issues are becoming more and more European ones, Berlin and Warsaw should find some common ground as much as possible in advance, so that they do not clash in Brussels.
It is up to the German government how it will act and if the positive Polish opinions even increase, or there is more and more criticism towards Germany in the Polish society. Today’s opinions represent important capital for both countries that they should build on.
See main conclusions of the study
A more detailed presentation and analysis of the results of the research (in Polish and German) is available at www.isp.org.pl
This publication is part of the common project of the Institute of Public Affairs and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Poland “Polish-German Barometer” that regularly researches Polish perception of Germany and its policy.