The World from Berlin Poland's Adolescent Behavior

A lawsuit by a group representing former German refugees from Eastern Europe has incensed the Polish government. The outrage is apparently so intense that Poland's foreign minister has said her country may seek to renegotiate the treaty that sets the final borders between the two countries.

The Prussian Trust is taking Poland to the European Court of Human Rights.

The Prussian Trust is taking Poland to the European Court of Human Rights.

Poland has threatened to renegotiate the treaty that fixes the border between Germany and Poland in response to a compensation claim filed with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg by a relatively obscure group representing Germans expelled from Poland after World War II and their families.

Polish Foreign Minister Anna Fotyga said Poland would show a "very clear reaction" to the lawsuit filed last week by the Prussian Trust (Preussische Treuhand). Asked if she was referring to a possible renegotiation of the 1990 German-Polish border agreement, she told Polish radio: "Yes, precisely that."

The treaty confirms earlier pacts identifying the rivers Oder and Neisse as the final border between the two countries. Fotyga pointed out that for the agreement to be changed, both sides would have to take a decision to that effect.

The row over the claims by the Prussian Trust and the Polish government's harsh reaction to the suit have put further strain on Polish-German relations, which have deteriorated since the nationalist conservative government led by the twin brothers Jaroslaw and Lech Kaczynski -- who are prime minister and president respectively -- came to power last year.

German editorialists were clearly irritated by the developments Wednesday. Berlin's center-left daily Der Tagesspiegel asks:

"Can a lawsuit instigated by private citizens of a country against another state seriously disrupt the relations between these two nations? The answer is 'No.' Otherwise there could no longer be any normal diplomatic relations.

"The double absurdity of this situation is that the German government has harshly criticized the actions of the Prussian Trust, but it is not allowed to prohibit its own citizens from filing claims in Strasbourg. Nor has Poland taken any steps to create legal certainty over how the country should deal with the expropriations undertaken by the communists. And instead of making its own judicial position airtight, the government reacts not rationally like an enlightened democracy of the 21st century, but more in the style of a nation-state of the late 19th century.

"The two German-Polish treaties are the basis for the national cooperation of both countries, and not some second-rate accords that should simply be made disposable. To just go ahead and do so anyway is -- let us put it cautiously -- adolescent."

Calling the new developments "dangerous," the business daily Handelsblatt writes:

"The Polish government and the Prussian Trust are playing with fire. Those who, like them, attempt to shake up the German-Polish treaties negotiated in 1990 and 1991 threaten a decisive basis for reconciliation between both peoples and states. Without these treaties, the intensive neighborly relations -- which recently manifested themselves in the so-called German-Polish Year -- would not be possible.

"Fortunately, the demand to renegotiate the treaties is nothing more than the motions of a threat, and is of no consequence under international law. After all, such documents must be formulated bilaterally, something which is not the intention of the German government."

-- Alex Bakst, 2:30 p.m. CET


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