Poles and Germans growing closer together, survey shows

Dr Agnieszka Lada, Director of the European Programme at the Institute of Public Affairs, at presentation on German-Poland relations

After decades of mistrust, Poland and Germany have increasingly similar views on their joint future.

The vast majority of Germans and most Poles want the countries‘ mutual relations to be focused more on the present and the future, a survey has found.

According to the Polish – German Barometer 2018 survey, conducted by the Institute of Public Affairs, the Körber Foundation and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, 60 per cent of Poles and 70 per cent of Germans were showing demonstrably more trust in their Western neighbour.  

Less respondents were feeling threatened by Germany, with the majority of surveyed Poles voting in favour of strengthening the German army – a shift likely to be connected to their shared NATO membership and a commitment to collective security. 

“This is a very important aspect of the survey. When it comes to the Bundeswehr’s funding, at the level required by NATO, we are still hearing from Germans that they believe Poles would be afraid of a strong German army. Our research shows that the opposite is true: 54% of Poles see a stronger Bundeswehr as benefiting Polish security,“ says Dr Agieszka Lada, Director of the European Programme at the Institute of Public Affairs. 

The high level of trust towards the region’s military could be attributed to Poland’s strong identification with Europe – 73% of Poles feel a strong connection with the EU, while only 54% of German respondents expressed a similar sentiment.

When it comes to the challenges facing the European community, Poles and Germans are however in agreement. 62% of Germans and 56% Poles stated that resolving the refugee and immigration crisis should be the issue determining EU policy over the coming months. 

However, substantial discrepancies were observed between Poles and Germans in their attitude towards the USA. Poles still consider the United States as the most important partner for close cooperation, while only 41% of Germans shared a similar opinion – with the French, Dutch and Italians considered more important.

Another large gap appeared in statistics showing the level of mutual sympathies. While most Poles declared sympathy for their western neighbour, only one third of Germans had a positive opinion of Poland.  

As Dr Lada emphasises, this is disturbing, especially due to the fact, that Germany’s poor opinion of Poland has shown little change over the years. 

According to Nora Mueller from the German Koerber Foundation, poor knowledge of Poland could be responsible for the result. 

“I think it's always good for Germans to have a differentiated view of Poland, to come to Poland, to get a sense of the country, to meet with the people. I would definitely be for that.

“There seems to be a correlation…that the more personal experience people have, and the more contact they have with their Polish counterparts, the more differentiated their view is. It’s all about differentiation – having a wider picture eventually,“ she said.