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POLAND: Debate on war reparations continues

The issue of seeking war reparations from Germany has remained one of the top topics in Polish politics in the past months (for an overview see the 11.08 CEC Weekly). The ruling PiS party argues that Poland never received, and never waived its right to seek, compensation for World War II damages. The parliamentary analysis bureau is meant to release its official expertise on the issue today, but the state TVP info channel has the leaked document. The 40 page analysis re-establishes some historical facts but also quotes international law stipulations justifying Poland’s claim. The German government’s spokesperson dismissed the idea, arguing that the matter was settled over 50 years ago. While a month ago, the topic received little to no attention in Germany, with the approaching federal election on September 24th, more German politicians have publicly spoken against Warsaw’s claims. Chancellor Angela Merkel steered clear of the topic but she has mentioned Poland in other contexts, referencing EU procedures on maintaining the rule of law.

The PiS government’s move on reparations can be seen in a two-fold way: firstly, it is used as a sort of retaliation against Berlin for supporting actions against Warsaw on the EU forum; secondly, it turned out that Polish citizens are predominantly in favour of seeking reparations and agree with PiS’ actions. Opposition movements such as PO and Nowoczesna argue that the move will hurt Polish-German relations for years to come, but ruling party officials are adamant that their quest will be successful. While it is not actually likely that Poland will receive reparations, the case is a useful argument for PiS when the anti-German narrative refloats every few weeks or months in the media.