Duda to Steinmeier: Poland for EU of free nations, equal states

We support an EU of free nations and equal states, President Andrzej Duda said on Tuesday after talks with visiting German head of state Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Steinmeier advocated more mutual trust among EU members.

Steinmeier and his wife are on a two-day visit in Poland in connection with this year's Polish independence centenary.

At a press conference with Steinmeier after the talks, Duda observed that the German president was the first head of state to come to Poland in connection with the independence anniversary.

"You, Mr. President, are the first leader to come to our country to join us in our celebration of this very important anniversary," Duda said.

Duda underscored Poland's support of an EU "of free nations and equal states," where all members have an equal say and equal benefits.

"We are for a Europe of free nations and equal states, in other words a Europe where each country has its place, but also has the same say as other countries, and in effect all benefit equally from being in the European Union," Duda said. He added that Poland hoped that occasionally raised ideas of a two-speed EU, separating poorer and wealthier member states, will never materialise.

Duda assured that public support for the EU was high in Poland, and said he and Steinmeier felt concerned over the rising position of anti-European parties in some EU countries. Duda voiced hope that anti-EU moods will not rise sufficiently to disrupt the union, which he called "a great European project."

Steinmeier said he was pleased to be able to celebrate the Polish centenary with Duda, observing that inviting a German leader to such an anniversary was "not a self-evident thing." Steinmeier stressed that he was filled with "humility and great gratitude" in face of the reconcilement process between Germany and Poland, and assured that close and friendly relations with Poland were of "priceless value" for Germany.

Referring to the EU, Steinmeier said that what it needed most today was trust and a sense of unity between its members and less of an "us against Brussels" attitude. He added that the EU had to undertake constructive steps to overcome its crisis and remain an attractive option for future generations.

Commenting on security issues, Duda voiced hope that the forthcoming NATO summit in Brussels decides to continue the Alliance's to-date policy towards Russia, especially regarding reinforcements of the eastern NATO flank and dialogue with Moscow. In this context Duda thanked Steinmeier for Germany's involvement in efforts to resolve the Ukraine conflict, and voiced support for the stationing of UN forces in the conflict-torn Donbas region in eastern Ukraine.

Duda also said that in his talks with Steinmeier he reiterated Poland's disapproval of the German-Russian Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, and explained that Poland's protests against it were driven by concern for the welfare of the entire continent.

Steinmeier also referred to the Nord Stream issue, and assured that Germany was aware of its responsibilities in the matter. He added that contrary to Poland's fears, the pipeline was not meant to replace gas transit routes through Ukraine.

Asked about Poland's rule of law conflict with the EU, Steinmeier said the issue could not be avoided and was on the agenda of a Tuesday evening meeting with Duda.