Polish, German presidents mark historic bilateral treaty

Duda said he and Steinmeier believed that the close bilateral cooperation "will be flourishing in the years to come." Andrzej Lange/PAP

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier met his Polish counterpart, Andrzej Duda, on Thursday to mark the 30th anniversary of the signing of a landmark treaty that helped heal relations between Poland and Germany.

Signed in 1991, two years after the fall of communism, the Treaty of Good Neighbourship, supplemented the Polish-German Border Treaty of 1990. The 1991 document paved the way for better relations between two neighbours that had remained under the dark cloud cast by World War Two.

At a joint press conference with Steinmeier in Warsaw, Duda said that the treaty was a breakthrough moment for both countries.

"It was in 1991, on June 17 to be exact, soon after the profound changes that had taken place in Poland, Germany and Europe," Duda said, adding that the document was also very important "in the context of the reunification of Germany.

"A number of Polish families are making their living thanks to the Polish-German cooperation that has been flourishing for 30 years, primarily in the economy and society," the Polish president continued.

Duda said he and Steinmeier believed that the close bilateral cooperation "will be flourishing in the years to come."

Steinmeier said that in current politics, both countries "must think about future generations."

The German president also vowed that he and Duda would make efforts to organise meetings of young Poles and Germans as soon as the coronavirus restrictions are lifted.

Steinmeier said a memorial to Nazi Germany's Polish victims was under construction in Berlin. He added that the memorial will be located in the centre of the city, and that its form and precise location were currently being debated.

"This will be a place that will let today's generations see the immense suffering and unimaginable destruction experienced by Poland... a German-Polish and European site, a monument and a meeting-place," the German president said.

In a Thursday statement, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the treaty had paved the way for reconciliation in bilateral relations, helping to overcome a painful history marked by death and destruction at German hands.

"Reconciliation and a new order with Poland: this is what the Polish-German Treaty of Good Neighbourship of June 17, 1991 means," Maas said.