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Grow a thicker skin, Germany tells Poland

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Grow a thicker skin, Germany tells Poland
The carnival float was placed on display in Düsseldorf despite the parade being cancelled due to high winds. Photo: DPA
14:48 CET+01:00
The German government reminded Poland on Wednesday that it doesn't control political speech within its borders, after Warsaw complained about a Düsseldorf carnival float which mocked the leader of its governing party.

It's a potent image, especially for a group of Germans to make about their neighbours to the East.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the Law and Justice Party, dressed as a preening military dictator, places his booted foot on the head of a prostrate woman labelled "Poland".

And while the carnival parade in the North Rhine-Westphalia capital was cancelled due to storm warnings this year, images of the carnival float diorama have gone around the world.

It's been the latest sting to relations between Berlin and Warsaw following the Law and Justice Party's victory in 2015 parliamentary elections.

The new government has already rejected German criticisms of reforms to its public broadcaster and constitutional court – which are currently the subject of an EU investigation into whether they breach democratic norms.

And foreign minister Witold Waszczykowski lost no time in complaining about the latest perceived slight.

"We will draw attention to this in a diplomatic way and ask our partners in Germany what the point of this is," Waszczykowski declared on Tuesday on Polish radio.

He believed that the float represented "contempt for Poland and for Polish politicians".

But Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman rejected Waszczykowski's blustering when asked about it at a weekly press conference on Wednesday.

"In Germany, we have freedom of opinion, freedom of art," Steffen Seibert told journalists in Berlin – whether or not that might be "less comfortable" for the people depicted.

A spokesman for the Düsseldorf Carnival Committee would not comment on the diplomatic row when contacted by The Local, but said that satire was an important part of the event.

SEE ALSO: Germany to be scolded for "anti-Polish" remarks

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