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Polish president slams Tusk for saying Poland will drop German reparations claims

President Andrzej Duda took aim at Prime Minister Donald Tusk for saying Poland had given up on war reparations claims against Germany launched by the previous conservative PiS government

By: EBR - Posted: Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Tusk and Scholz held a joint press briefing after the Polish-German intergovernmental consultations in Warsaw on Tuesday, during which they were asked about the reparations claims for Nazi crimes during World War II made by Poland’s previous conservative PiS (ECR) government.
Tusk and Scholz held a joint press briefing after the Polish-German intergovernmental consultations in Warsaw on Tuesday, during which they were asked about the reparations claims for Nazi crimes during World War II made by Poland’s previous conservative PiS (ECR) government.

by Aleksandra Krzysztoszek

President Andrzej Duda took aim at Prime Minister Donald Tusk for saying Poland had given up on war reparations claims against Germany launched by the previous conservative PiS government during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Warsaw on Tuesday.

Tusk and Scholz held a joint press briefing after the Polish-German intergovernmental consultations in Warsaw on Tuesday, during which they were asked about the reparations claims for Nazi crimes during World War II made by Poland’s previous conservative PiS (ECR) government.

PiS, which lost power to the Tusk-led coalition in December, sent a diplomatic note to Berlin in 2022 asking for €1.3 trillion in war reparations.

Although Poland’s communist government renounced all claims to war reparations in 1953 under pressure from the USSR, the PiS government argued that the agreement was invalid because Poland was unable to negotiate fair compensation at a time when it was dependent.

Berlin has consistently rejected Poland’s reparations claims, arguing that all World War II-related financial claims were settled by the 1990 Two-plus-Four treaty that allowed Germany’s reunification.

After acknowledging the German government’s position, reiterated by Scholz, Tusk insisted that he was “not disappointed” by it.

“In a legal sense, the problem of reparations has been described in decisions and government treaties, but one can draw various conclusions from them,” he admits.

For him, the most important are Berlin’s statements “confirming the common belief in Poland that the historical abandonment of reparation claims does not change the fact of the great loss of people, property and land suffered by Poland as a result of the German invasion”.

He expressed satisfaction with his German counterpart’s statements on other forms of compensation for war crimes. These include a monument in Berlin commemorating Polish victims of the German occupation, the establishment of the Polish-German House and financial support for war survivors, as listed by Scholz.

“We, the Germans, caused immeasurable suffering to Poland during the Second World War. We are aware of our guilt and responsibility for the millions of victims of the German occupation,” said Scholz.

Outrage within the opposition

However, Tusk’s backtracking on reparations and Scholz’s vague promises on war reparations sparked outrage in Poland, especially among the opposition.

PiS MP Zbigniew Bogucki called the chancellor’s statement “imprudent,” pointing out that few of the war’s survivors are still alive. The reparations are “Germany’s obligation towards Poland and Polish citizens, which it has never adequately fulfilled,” he wrote on X.

“Poland and Poles suffered proportionally the greatest losses as a result of German aggression (…). One-off, relatively small financial gestures do not close the issue of reparations,” said another PiS MP, Arkadiusz Mularczyk, author of the PiS government’s report on the German war reparations.

During a press conference with his Albanian ally in Tirana, Duda was asked about the Tusk government’s position on German reparations.

“If the prime minister agrees with the German position that reparations claims have been dropped, I say I do not agree with it,” he stressed.

He also said he did not share the view that “any Polish authorities have effectively renounced their rights and claims for compensation for the damage done to Poles, the Polish nation and our country during the Second World War”.

The disagreement over war reparations is yet another issue that has divided Tusk’s government and the president, a former PiS member who is still accused of loyalty to his old party.

On Monday, Duda announced the creation of his own council to oversee the implementation of strategic development projects, as he disagreed with Tusk’s cabinet over the previous PiS government’s flagship project to build the CPK mega-airport.

*first published in: Euractiv.com

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