Polish, German foreign ministers discuss historical issues in Warsaw

Czaputowicz (pictured R) noted that Maas's (L) visit was related to the 75th anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising and stated that it was an expression of Maas's “historical sensitivity” and emphasised the importance of historical issues in Polish-German relations. Leszek Szymański/PAP

Poles have a sense of injustice for the harm done as a result of World War II, Foreign Minister Jacek Czpautowicz said after talks in Warsaw on Wednesday with his German counterpart, Heiko Maas, who said Germans feel morally responsible for the war.

Historical issues were on the agenda of the two foreign ministers' talks in Warsaw. The discussion also touched on the future of the EU, including the election of the new president of the European Commission (EC).

Czaputowicz noted that Maas's visit was related to the 75th anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising and stated that it was an expression of Maas's "historical sensitivity" and emphasised the importance of historical issues in Polish-German relations. "The visit of Minister Heiko Maas is evidence of the close relations of Poland and Germany as well as of the importance that both parties attach to frank, intensive dialogue between our two countries," Czaputowicz said.

The Polish foreign minister was positive in his assessment of the idea of building a monument to Polish victims of World War II in Berlin. "In our assessment, the monument should be a place of remembrance and reflection on the victims as well as having educational value, if that monument is to be built," the minister said. "Carrying out the idea of building [it] would be an important symbolic gesture and a signal evidencing German empathy for Polish historical sensitivity."

Asked about the issue of war reparations from Germany, the Polish FM stressed that difficult issues should not be avoided in bilateral relations. "Poles have a sense of a certain injustice, and also a lack of compensation for the harm, the losses incurred as a result of war activities," he said. "It is a matter of public debate and I believe there is no reason to avoid the subject in mutual relations."

He pointed out that the ministry is currently awaiting the outcome of work by a special parliamentary team set up to assess the extent of reparations and, in his view, that should form the basis of discussions on the matter in the future. Czaputowicz also stated that ceremonies marking the 80th anniversary of the war's outbreak would be attended by both countries' presidents, Poland's Andrzej Duda and Germany's Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

"What Germans did to the Poles fills us with shame," Maas said. "The unspeakable suffering that the Poles experienced here in Warsaw and in the whole country moves many Germans and me personally and I want to express that today," he continued, going on to thank Czaputowicz for the invitation to mark the anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, which he said showed great trust from a friend.

"But memory and settlement, for example within the framework of today's visit here in Warsaw, will never be finished," Maas said. "Germans feel morally responsible for World War II and for what it did to Poland. We must never forget the suffering we caused to other countries and above all to Poland."

Czaputowicz announced that Wednesday's talks had also concerned the future of the EU, including the election of the new EC president, which he described as a chance for new openings. "In the spirit of compromise, taking into account the interests of all members, including from Central Europe, Poland is striving for the EU to be strong, democratic, efficient and solidarity-based," he said. "We are sharing that point of view and Polish-German cooperation is key to achieving that ambitious goal."

Also on the agenda was the Polish-German round table, the next sitting of which will be in November, as well as the Berlin Process to support the integration of the Western Balkans with the EU.

Heiko Maas also stated that Germany would not participate in the US-led military mission to defend the Strait of Hormuz. "The German government will not take part in the US-planned and proposed maritime mission," he was quoted by the dpa agency as saying, going on to note that Germany wished to prevent further escalation of tensions in the Persian Gulf region, where he said there is no possibility of a military solution.