SPIEGEL Interview with Polish Foreign Minister 'We Want To See the Euro Zone Flourish'
Part 2: 'The War Affected Every Family in Poland'
SPIEGEL: That can be seen from personal experiences as well, like yours for example. You have been influenced greatly by attacks from your large neighbors, fascist Germany and Soviet Russia. Can you completely move beyond such traumas?
Sikorski: It is less and less present, but it is still there to a significant degree. Whenever you talk about Poland, you end up talking about the war. For good reason. The war affected every family in Poland and it affected the lives and opportunities of two generations. My parents lived in Bydgoszcz, which was occupied by the Wehrmacht in the first days of the war, and the executions began immediately. For one word of Polish in the street, the Germans shipped people to a concentration camp and denunciations ended in death. My uncle ended up in Buchenwald, my grandfather was taken away by the Nazis as a forced laborer. Every Polish family has stories like that.
SPIEGEL: In your book, you mention the goodness of some Germans despite the horrific deeds of the Nazis. How did you experience the Soviet-controlled communism of your youth?
Sikorski: Communism oppressed us both politically and culturally leading to the economic degradation of two generations.
SPIEGEL: You joined the opposition movement Solidarity as a youth. Was it simply youth rebellion or did you even then have a vision of the end of the Soviet Union and a European community?
Sikorski: Joining the union was a moral imperative. Not one of us expected communism to fall. The Stalinization of Europe was the same everywhere. Those in power controlled the secret service, youth organizations, the press and they imposed terror. Some Germans shared our fate. The war in Poland wasn't just an experience of five years, it lasted much longer. It wasn't over until at least 1989 and ended happily with our accession to the EU in 2004. We still feel the results of the losses, the suffering and the abasement today.
SPIEGEL: You spent a few years living in the United States and have always sought to maintain a special relationship to America. Poland stood at Washington's side during the war in Iraq and has purchased US fighter jets. But the focus has not paid dividends; Warsaw does not play much of a role at the White House. Is your renewed focus on Europe an expression of your disappointment in the US?
Sikorski: The USA remains an important ally for Poland, Germany and all of Europe. It is important for both our countries that the US remains engaged in European issues. But Poland is in Europe and our fundamental interests are here.
SPIEGEL: What does your ideal Europe look like? More integration?
Sikorski: Last November, we really were threatened with the collapse of the euro zone, showing just how fragile Europe is. I distrust people who say the process of renationalization could be arrested at a certain stage. I fear that it would be a dynamic process which you cannot control. So integration in areas where it makes sense is preferable. We need to strengthen the community and give it more democratic legitimacy. Our future is Europe.
SPIEGEL: Is there not a danger that a split could develop in the EU between a prosperous north and a south struggling to keep up?
Sikorski: We all use such shorthand. One hundred years ago, Max Weber argued that Catholics were incapable of internalizing capitalism, but today Bavaria and northern Italy are among the richest regions of Europe. Poland was once Eastern Europe, now we are Central Europe. And we are Northern Europe when it comes to public financing.
SPIEGEL: Just as Germany once saw itself as a mentor for Poland in the EU, you are now trying to assist Belarus and Ukraine on their paths toward Europe. Given recent events, has that effort now failed?
Sikorski: At the level of society, there is great progress. It's the politicians who have not done their job.
SPIEGEL: Merkel has pushed for an EU-wide boycott of European Football Championship games scheduled to be played in Ukraine due to the ongoing imprisonment of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Do you think that is a good idea?
Sikorski: When some politicians think that might have a positive effect, then that is their right. We feel, however, that further and tougher steps, spoiling the part of the sports festival taking place in Ukraine, would be damaging. It would be the common Ukrainians who would be most harmed, and most of them are pro-European. The games belong to them, not to the politicians. We have built a couple of beautiful, modern stadiums for the European Championship along with over 1,000 kilometers of highways. Of course we are hoping for a good party. It would be great if Poland were to play against German in the final ...
SPIEGEL: ... and lost.
Sikorski: If it must be so, then only because Poles play on both teams.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Minister, we thank you for this interview.
Interview conducted by Erich Follath and Jan Puhl
- Part 1: 'We Want To See the Euro Zone Flourish'
- Part 2: 'The War Affected Every Family in Poland'