Ambassador Rolf Nikel in Poland
Ambassadors and senior German employees in international organizations present insights into their work in the deutschland.de series “Foreign posting”. Part 17: Rolf Nikel in Poland.
Which subjects currently define relations between Germany and your host country?
As partners in the EU and NATO, Germany and Poland face the same major challenges: how to deal with the refugee crisis, how to fight terrorism and how to bring the ongoing conflict in and around Ukraine to an end.
As far as dealing with the refugee crisis is concerned, we are in agreement with Poland on questions of securing external borders and supporting the states in the region. Furthermore, it will only be possible to resolve this crisis in a spirit of European solidarity. We are also conducting intensive talks with our Polish partners to work out which form this solidarity could take.
With respect to the conflict in and around Ukraine, we agree with the Poles that full compliance with the Minsk Protocol is essential.
Which special ties are there between your host country and Germany? In which areas would you like to deepen relations?
Germany and Poland enjoy extremely good relations on many levels. German-Polish relations have progressed to a stage that has never before been achieved in our long and at times tragic shared history. These relations have developed particularly positively in the last 25 years following reunification, a process in which Poland played a key role.
German-Polish cooperation at the civil society level forms the backbone of our relations. Thousands of German-Polish partnerships on a private and institutional basis, including over 400 town-twinning programmes and countless regional, school and university partnerships, are the foundation for ever deepening ties. A significant role is also played in this by the German minority in Poland and by the Polish community and their associations in Germany, that is to say Poles and Germans of Polish descent.
It is vital that we continue to cultivate and promote this civil society cooperation. Youth exchanges and learning of our respective languages are likely to play an important role. Poland leads the world when it comes to learning German, with 2.3 million Poles currently learning our language.
Poland elected a new government in October 2015. What changes is this likely to entail for Poland, Germany and Europe?
The new Polish government has only been in office for a few weeks. It is still too early to draw any clear conclusions about the course it will take. Poland will continue to have an important voice in Europe when it comes to overcoming the numerous challenges we are facing. From my talks I know that the new government, and indeed the new president, attach great importance to maintaining and expanding German-Polish relations. I expect the biggest changes to be seen in Poland itself given that the governing PiS party placed its focus on economic and social policy during its election campaign.
2016 will see the 25th anniversary of the Treaty of Good Neighbourship. A “German-Polish Year” is to be staged to mark the occasion. What is planned?
In the anniversary year of 2016, a whole host of political, cultural and social events will be staged on both sides of the Oder river in celebration of German-Polish friendship. A joint meeting of both governments in Berlin is planned on 17 June, the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty, as is a public party in the centre of the city. In addition, the German-Polish Youth Office will hold an anniversary celebration in Warsaw, to which the presidents of both countries are invited.
All through the year, events will be put on in different places by the numerous German-Polish civil society initiatives. In cooperation with the Goethe-Institut Warsaw, the embassy in Warsaw for example will be organizing “German Weeks” in Poland, the motto being “an invitation from the good neighbour”, featuring events relating to film, music, fashion, city, garden, food and cookery.
Often there is a difference between the interior and exterior view of a country. In your personal experience, what needs to be said about Poland?
Unfortunately, for many Germans Poland remains our large unknown neighbour. The average Pole knows a lot more about Germany than the average German knows about Poland. Yet Poland has so much to offer in terms of tourism, economic potential and culture. I wish that more Germans would cross the Oder river and see for themselves. Personally, what I love most about the Poles is their warm-heartedness and hospitality, as well as their entrepreneurial spirit and talent for improvisation.