Cross-Border Crime Polish Ambassador Thinks Thieves Have it Easy in Germany

Many in Germany continue to believe that Poland is a nation of car thieves. But perhaps the problem lies with German law enforcement? That, at least, is what the Polish ambassador to Germany believes. He told a German paper that it is still too easy to steal cars in the country.
The border between the car thieves and the car owners.

The border between the car thieves and the car owners.

Foto: Patrick Pleul/ dpa

Germans, as is well known, love to travel. Thailand, Majorca, Crete, the Canary Islands: it seems there is hardly a place in the world where your average middle-class German hasn't planted a flag.

Tell someone from Germany that you are planning a trip to neighboring Poland, however, and the response is likely to be one of barely concealed horror. Heading across the eastern border, after all, is considered to be the height of carelessness. Many see the country as little more than an oversized den of car thieves waiting to pounce.

Little wonder then that the tiny Märkische Oderzeitung, in an interview with Polish Ambassador to Germany Marek Prawda, published on Monday, asked about the theft of cars in Germany, particularly near the border, at the hands of Polish criminals.

The answer, one can safely assume, was not the one the interviewer had expected. "That is first and foremost a problem for the police in the country where the cars are stolen," said a clearly annoyed Prawda. "They have to do more to prevent it. Maybe it is still too easy to steal cars in Germany."

On the Lookout

Prawda's indignation is perhaps not difficult to understand. German-Polish relations have long been marked by stereotypes on both sides, and Poland's 2004 entry into the European Union was accompanied by somber predictions that crime would immediately go up on Germany's eastern frontier.

In 2011, when the final limitations on Poles' ability to work in Germany were eliminated, some German media reports made it sound as though invading hordes were massing on the Oder-Neisse line just waiting to overrun the country. Such negative coverage of their country does not go unnoticed in Poland, particularly with a healthy tabloid press on the lookout for any possible slight.

Still, it is true that car theft did rise suspiciously in German states bordering Poland when the country became part of the European border-free travel Schengen group in late 2007. Indeed, car thefts in Berlin and in some border cities in the state of Brandenburg, rose by over 30 percent in 2009 over the previous year.

But with car thievery down significantly in Poland in recent years, hypersensitivity would seem to be widespread. Prawda's interlocutor wanted to know if Poles were aware that stealing cars isn't good for bilateral relations. But the Polish ambassador refused to be cowed. "On this issue," he said, "I think it is less helpful to speak about the burdens created for political relations than to do more for prevention."

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