German-Polish relations on knife-edge as Merkel’s replacement denies more WW2 reparations

Olaf Scholz is sworn in as Germany's new chancellor

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Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany has already paid damages for the 1939-1945 conflict, but noted Berlin must deal with the “moral consequences”. The successor to Angela Merkel made the intervention following talks with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in Warsaw.

Mr Scholz said: “We have signed contracts that are valid and have settled the issues relating to the past and the compensation payments.”

He added: “Nonetheless, we still feel obliged to deal with the moral consequences of the damages that Germans have caused in Poland and in many other places around the world.”

The leader of the Social Democrats did, however, link the matter of Polish reparation to Germany’s spending across the European Union.

Mr Scholz added: “Otherwise this is just one more reason that Germany is ready, willing and will continue to be ready and willing to make very, very high contributions to the financing of the budget of the European Union.”

Nazi-Germany invaded Poland in September 1939 and around six million Polish nationals were killed during the war

Mr Morawiecki previously announced the establishment of an institute for war damage.

A preliminary report published in 2019 put the bill at $850 billion (£643billion).

Campaign posters were erected in Warsaw and shared online ahead of the German Chancellor’s visit at the weekend.

The poster depicts Ms Merkel, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the German ambassador in Warsaw, Arndt Freytag von Loringhoven, in a row with Adolf Hitler and the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.

It says: “Dear Mr Freytag, can the German authorities, who are so interested in the rule of law in other countries, finally deal with Germany’s scandalous lawlessness and pay Poland reparations and damages for the German crimes of World War II?”

The Polish Foreign Office condemned the poster and said it does not reflect “the close and trusting German-Polish relations in today united Europe”.

The federal government in Germany has always considered repatriations to be settled and refer to the Two-Plus-Four Treaty signed in 1990 following the fall of the Berlin wall.

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The legislation signed by the Soviet Union, the US, France and Britain paved the way for the reunification of Germany.

Relations between Berlin and Warsaw also remain strained over Nord Stream 2.

Mr Morawieck has urged the German Chancellor to oppose the underground pipeline bringing gas from Russia to Europe.

The pipeline, which would send gas under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany, bypassing Ukraine, was completed in September.

However, it is yet to be approved by regulators and some fear it will result in Europe being too reliant on Russia for natural resources and could further undermine relations with Ukraine.

Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, Mr Scholz said: “We continue to feel responsible for ensuring that Ukraine’s gas transit business remains successful.

“The same goes for future opportunities.”

Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg

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