What Poland Asks of Germany (and Britain)
In the eyes of Poland, why has Germany become Europe's indispensable nation?
- What is the biggest threat to the security and prosperity of Poland today? It's not terrorism, and it's certainly not German tanks.
- I will probably be first Polish foreign minister in history to say so, but here it is: I fear German power less than I am beginning to fear German inactivity.
- Germany has become Europe's indispensable nation.
What we Poles ask of Germany, first of all, is that it admits that she is the biggest beneficiary of the current arrangements in Europe — and therefore that she has the biggest obligation to make them sustainable.
Second, as you Germans know best, you are not an innocent victim of others’ profligacy. You, who should have known better, have also broken the Growth and Stability Pact — and your banks also recklessly bought risky bonds.
Third, because investors have been selling the bonds of exposed countries and flying to safety, your borrowing costs have been lower than they would have been in normal times, so you may be benefiting in the short term, but…
Fourth, you must realize that if your neighbors’ economies stall or implode, you will suffer greatly, too.
Fifth, you must also acknowledge that, despite your understandable aversion to inflation, the danger of collapse is now a much bigger threat.
Sixth, you must recognize that because of your size and your history, you have a special responsibility to preserve peace and democracy on the continent. Jürgen Habermas, the eminent German philosopher, wisely said, “If the European project fails, then there is the question of how long it will take to reach the status quo again. Remember the German Revolution of 1848: When it failed, it took us 100 years to regain the same level of democracy as before.”
What, as Poland’s foreign minister, do I regard as the biggest threat to the security and prosperity of Poland today? It’s not terrorism, it’s not the Taliban and it’s certainly not German tanks. It’s not even Russian missiles which President Medvedev has just threatened to deploy on the EU’s border.
The biggest threat to the security and prosperity of Poland would be the collapse of the eurozone. And I demand of Germany that, for your own sake and for ours, you help the eurozone survive and prosper. You know full well that nobody else can do it.
I will probably be the first Polish foreign minister in history to say so, but here it is: I fear German power less than I am beginning to fear German inactivity.
You have become Europe’s indispensable nation.
Which brings me to the issue of whether an important member, Britain, can support the reforms now underway in Europe. Britain has given the EU its common language. The EU’s Single Market was largely its brilliant idea. A British commissioner runs the EU’s diplomacy. Britain could lead Europe on defense. It is an indispensable link across the Atlantic.
On the other hand, the eurozone’s collapse would hugely harm the UK economy. Also, the UK’s total sovereign, corporate and household debt exceeds 400% of GDP.
So I ask: Are you sure markets will always favor you? We would prefer you in, but if you can’t join, please allow us to forge ahead. And please start explaining to your people that European decisions are not Brussels’ diktats, but results of agreements in which you freely participate.
And finally, Poland. Today, Poland is not the source of problems, but a source of European solutions. We now have both the capacity and the will to contribute. We bring a recent experience of a successful transformation from dictatorship to democracy and from an economic basket case to an increasingly prosperous market economy.
In this effort, we were helped by friends and allies: the United States, UK, France and, above all, Germany. We appreciate the strong and generous support — the solidarity — which Germany has extended to us over the last two decades.
Editor’s Note: This feature is adapted from the speech Mr. Sikorski gave in Berlin on November 28, 2011.