Germany threatens sanctions as Poland resists Merkel’s open border policy
Amid a massive refugee crisis, the diplomatic relations between Germany and Poland have reached a post-WWII low.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s EU-backed proposal to distribute large number of newly arriving Arab and North African migrants across Europe has been met with stiff resistance from the recently elected Polish government.
The rhetoric coming from Germany has turned especially hostile in recent months. Leading members of Merkel’s government have talked about taking “punitive measures” against Poland and placing the country “under supervision.” Germany’s Deputy Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has also called for economic sanctions against EU-members who refure to “shoulder the burden” and accept their “fair share” of migrants.
However, Berlin’s tough talk has been counterproductive and has only strengthened Polish resolve to oppose the open door migrant policy. Things have gotten so bad between the two countries that even the German state-run broadcaster Deutsche Welle had to admit that bilateral relations were now “in a free fall.”
Even the German carnival celebrations over the weekend caused a renewed diplomatic spat in this series. Poland registered its diplomatic protest to a parade float in Düsseldorf showing Polish leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski stamping his jackboot on the head of a woman depicting Poland. Goernment spokesman in Berlin promptly rejected Poland’s objections citing “freedom of expression.”
This would have be a valid argument, if German police themselves were not investigating into carnival floats in the states of Bavaria and Thuringia deemed “offensive” to Muslim migrants.
At the same time, German authorities and the mainstream media have been thin skinned when it comes to open criticism of official migrant policy, clubbing together every opposition to mass migration as racism and xenophobia.
Germany’s state-run broadcaster DW reports:
Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Wednesday that Berlin would not interfere with carnival organizers in Düsseldorf about the controversial creation. “We have freedom of expression in Germany, freedom of art,” Seibert said, adding that this freedom would be maintained even if it became uncomfortable for those being represented.
The carnival float, created by organizers in Düsseldorf, depicted Poland as a woman being stepped on by a booted Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the conservative PiS party. The float was shown in front of Düsseldorf’s city hall for a short period after the traditional carnival parade on Rose Monday was canceled due to storm warnings.
On Tuesday, Poland’s Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski, also a PiS member, called the installation an “insult to Poland and Polish politicians” and said he would register a protest with Berlin.
Relations between Germany and Poland have suffered after the conservative PiS party took over the government. Last month, Berlin and Warsaw clashed because of Poland’s restrictive media laws and a reduction in the powers of Poland’s constitutional court. Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo is also against a distribution quota for refugees in the European Union, which has further worsened relations.
Last October, Chancellor Merkel’s migrant policy received a big blow when Poles elected a conservative government in a landslide on promises of securing country’s borders against the EU-directives and to strengthen traditional Catholic family values.
Despite a resounding rejection of previous Polish government’s liberal migrant policy by the voters, Germany and EU are refusing to take no for an answer.
After sexually-motivated attacks on the New Year’s Eve in the city of Cologne, the welcoming attitude of ordinary German’s towards to the “refugees” has all but faded away. Merkel is facing an open rebellion from her coalition partner Christian Social Union (CSU) and the anti-immigration AfD party is expected register a record performance in next month’s German regional elections.
In face of rising opposition and spiralling migrant situation, Merkel is doubling down on her open border policy. With support of the Social Democrats (SPD), she can comfortably govern till the end of tenure in 2017.
If that was not enough, Merkel has announced her ambitions to run for the fourth term as German Chancellor in 2017.
Watch: UKIP leader Nigel Farage speaks in the EU-parliament on Merkel’s Migrant Policy
[Cover image courtesy Phoenix TV, Youtube screenshot]
[Author is a current affairs analyst based in Germany]