Minority criticises slow implementation: declaration of the German-Polish “round table” has not lived up to expectations

The German minority in Poland – represented by the Union of Social-Cultural Associations in Poland - VDG (member of FUEN) is not satisfied with the implementation of the “Joint Declaration of the Round Table on supporting the German minority in Poland and the citizens of Polish descent and Poles in Germany.”

Background – anniversary of the German-Polish Neighbourliness Treaty

On 12 June 2011 the “Joint Declaration of the Round Table on supporting the German minority in Poland and the citizens of Polish descent and Poles in Germany” was signed. With this declaration the 20th anniversary of the treaty between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Republic of Poland on good neighbourliness and friendly cooperation from 17 June 1991 was celebrated.

Tomasz Siemoniak, State Secretary at the Polish Ministry of the Interior, Dr Christoph Bergner, Federal Government Commissioner for Matters Related to Repatriates and National Minorities, and Bernard Gaida (German minority in Poland – Union of Social-Cultural Associations), Wieslaw Lewicki (Convention of the Polish Organisations in Germany) and Marek Wójcicki (Federation of the Poles in Germany) signed the document in Warsaw. The signing was preceded by round-table meetings, discussions in joint German-Polish working groups and bilateral talks between the representatives of the governments.

Round Table – results

In the declaration the following points were included for the German minority, which are either inadequately implemented or not at all at this moment:

·                A scientific analysis of the “undemocratic actions of the People’s Republic of Poland against its Polish citizens of German nationality during the communist regime”
·                Increasing subsidies, as institutional support for the organisations of the German minority in Poland – especially for the House of German-Polish Cooperation in Gliwice/Gleiwitz
·                Revising the strategy on the development of the education system of the German minority
·                Support for the archive and museum of the German minority

For the group of people of Polish descent in Germany the following commitments were entered into:
·                a secretariat in Berlin
·                a documentation centre for the culture and history of the Poles in Germany.

Because of questions from the SPD-group (social-democrats) in the German Parliament that were answered in July this year, we have an overview of the implementation of the agreement on the German side, as well as the subsidies to the group of people of Polish descent in Germany in general. From July 2012 onwards, the Secretariat that was promised and its homepage will receive 80,000 Euro annually. For projects there will be 100,000 Euro annually. For the documentation centre a feasibility study has been written, which now has to be implemented.

According to the German minority in Poland, the Polish goverment lags behind in implementing its obligations. “We hope that we will be able to clarify the further steps in our next meeting with the government in Warsaw”, according to VDG in Poland..

Difficulty of terminology: Polish minority in Germany?

The negotiations at the round-table meetings between Berlin and Warsaw – as several sources confirmed – were rather complex and full with controversy. Especially the issue of the status of the minorities led and still leads to controversial discussions.

The German minority in Poland is recognised as an “autochthonous minority”; Warsaw committed itself clearly when it acceded to the international treaties of the Council of Europe (Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages). The people of Polish descent / Polish minority in Germany however, has not been recognised as such by the government in Berlin. In the opinion of the government, the Poles in Germany – the so-called Ruhr-Poles, who came to Germany as industrialisation progressed – have been assimilated. The Federation of the Poles in Germany in Bochum however is invoking their autochthonous status.

The majority of the 1 million Germans of Polish descent, however, came to Germany in past decades and are not recognised by Berlin as an ‘autochthonous minority”.


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