FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Angela Merkel holds a roll of paper that will go inside a time capsule during the city’s 750th anniversary celebrations at Burgergarten in Templin, Germany, September 10, 2021. Reuters/Anegret Hills/File photo
September 10, 2021
WARSAW (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Poland on Saturday, part of a goodbye tour of Europe for the continent’s longest-serving leader, risks tensions over a gas pipeline and questions over her legacy in Central Europe is facing.
Growing up in East Germany near the Polish border, 67-year-old Merkel was seen by some observers as a chancellor who could belong to the communist states of Central Europe.
However, relations are soured by his determination to complete the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Russia, on his farewell visit to the capital of emerging Europe’s largest economy.
The pipeline pits Germany, the EU’s biggest economy, against central and eastern European countries, some of them EU members, which it says will increase the bloc’s reliance on Russian gas.
Russia, the cornerstone of the Soviet Union that once dominated Central and Eastern Europe, is still viewed with suspicion in much of the region.
Michael Baranowski, head of the Warsaw office of the German Marshall Fund, said: “Generally he was seen as a man who understood Central and Eastern Europe.” Polish-German relations were in a “difficult moment”.
“I think she is going as Ms. Nord Stream 2 from a Polish point of view.”
Relations have been strained under Poland’s ruling nationalists, the PiS.
Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydyk told Polish public radio on Friday that he hoped Nord Stream 2 would join Merkel’s talks with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, along with the Polish COVID-19 National Recovery Plan, to be launched by Brussels in Warsaw. has not been approved due to concerns of Commitment to the rule of law.
Poland and Hungary are embroiled in a long-running dispute with Brussels over issues including judicial independence, freedom of the press and LGBT rights, a conflict that recently intensified with Brussels taking legal action against Warsaw and Budapest Is.
“She (Merkel) is concerned that differences regarding the judicial question will escalate between Eastern Europe and the rest of Europe,” a German government source said.
Analysts say that under Merkel’s rule, Germany sought consensus and dialogue with Central and Eastern European states, pushed Brussels forward and avoided direct conflict.
However, some diplomats say Merkel could have done more against democratic backsliding.
“Merkel doesn’t like revolution. She doesn’t like to rock the boat and she probably thought she could contain it, and clearly it didn’t work out,” said Sophie in Not Weld, a Dutch Liberal of the European Parliament said the member.
But anti-German sentiment is still strong among many PiS voters, with some analysts suggesting that Merkel may also be wary of stirring up old animosity in a country that suffered greatly during World War II.
PiS politicians have repeatedly called on Germany to repair the war.
With conservatives candidate Armin Lachett to replace Merkel struggling in the election, policymakers across Europe are beginning to ponder what it would mean to a government led by Finance Minister Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats.
Daniela Schwarzer, executive director for Europe and Eurasia at the Open Society Foundation, said: “It is very important that the next German government supports a more definitive EU response to prevent further retreat in Poland, Hungary and other countries. “
(Reporting by Alan Charlish, Justina Pavlak, Anna Koper and Eliza Ptak in Warsaw, Andreas Rinke in Berlin, John Chalmers in Brussels, John Irish in Paris; Editing by Mark Potter)