Poles regularly evaluate Germany positively for its European policy. Nevertheless a research based on a public opinion poll shows that the Polish society is highly divided concerning the question, whether a stronger Germany in Europe would be beneficial or unbeneficial for Poland. The newest report out of the series „Polish-German Barometer”, a common research project of the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) was presented yesterday in Warsaw. Over two thirds (68%) of Poles thinks that Germany contributes to a better cooperation in Europe. The percentage of people, who think so increased by ten percent over the last decade. The same amount of Poles believes that Germany helps to overcome the crisis in the Eurozone. Similarly like three years ago over 50% of Poles see Germany as a country, which of course aims to achieve its own goals, but also respects the interests of other states. „At first sight everything seems nice and beautiful, maybe even a little bit too much. Poles – without a change for years – positively evaluate the German European policy”, says Dr. Agnieszka Łada, head of the European Program of the Institute of Public Affairs, author of the research, analysing the results. „But when we take a closer look at the answers it turns out that Poles have to some extent concerns towards Germany’s role in Europe. As an example I could name the unchanged group of respondents (37%) since 2012, who believe that Germany is fulfilling its agenda on the expense of other members of the EU”, comments Agnieszka Łada.
Despite positive evaluations of the German European policy Poles are not certain, whether a strengthening of Germany’s position in Europe would be positive for Poland. 38% of the respondents are convinced that Poland would profit. Almost the same amount 35% of the surveyees believe that Poland would neither benefit nor lose, hence 17% of respondents think that it would not be beneficial for Poland. „This trend is not surprising when put into context of debates held in the entire European Union. Some people say that the Community is lacking a leader and Germany should become one. Others are afraid that whether this would not make Germany too strong in comparison with other member states. The division of the Polish public opinion well illustrates the European debates”, explains Mrs. Łada.
This year’s edition of the research “Polish-German barometer” show as well that the Polish citizens do not have one single opinion when it comes to evaluate, whether Germany sees in Poland a partner. Still 47% of the respondents claim that Germany does not treat Poland as an equal partner, while only 43% have the opinion that Germany “always” or “often” treat Poland as an equal partner.
„A worrying increase shows the percentage of respondents, who can ‘t evaluate the current state of Polish-German relations. Currently this is over one fifth of the respondents – which is the highest amount since the beginning of the research program conducted by the IPA.”, mentions Agnieszka Łada. „Because on the one hand Poles hear that Poland and Germany do not find a common position regarding the Eastern policy on the other hand they observe the everyday cooperation on different levels, which works well. In the end they do not know which grade they should give to the relations “.
The director of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation Dr. Christian Schmitz pointed out how many Polish-German organisations exist and according to him their good work is very important when it comes to building the positive image of the two countries in its neighbour state.
However the president of the executive board of the Institute of Public Affairs Dr. Jacek Kucharczyk underlined that the research results clearly show a certain feeling of asymmetry in the Polish-German relations. According to him a big influence on this feeling could have had the lack of presence of Poland in the negotiations concerning Ukraine as well as the big economic gap between Poland and Germany. Kucharczyk also said that this feeling of asymmetry in the common relations is being feed through the political debate and for political goals.
Nevertheless Mr. Kucharczyk underlines that the political differences to not translate directly into the evaluation of the relations with Germany. The traditional voters for the right are not so negative towards Germany as their political leaders.
To summarize the results he added: „A couple years ago, in time of the crisis, some people said that Poland no longer is part of Central Europe but belongs to Northern Europe. The level of our economy do not confirm this aspirations to 100%, but if it comes to public opinion polls we definitely belong on the side of our German partner”.