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Ties strained over refugees and war reparations, Merkel eyes 'new chapter' in Poland relations

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Ties strained over refugees and war reparations, Merkel eyes 'new chapter' in Poland relations
Polish PM Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki at a museum documenting the fate of the Polish Ulma family, killed in March 1944 by Nazi Germans. Photo: Janek Skarzynski/AFP
13:12 CET+01:00
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday mooted a "new chapter" in relations with Poland, strained by Warsaw's rejection of the EU's mandatory refugee quotas as well as Poland's controversial judicial reforms.
Speaking ahead of a visit next Friday by Poland's rightwing Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Merkel said it would be an occasion to open "a new chapter in German-Polish relations," alluding to "divergent views on some issues".
 
The remarks came during Merkel's weekly podcast, and were in answer to a question from a student.
 
Germany and other fellow EU member states have also criticized Poland over a law enacted on Tuesday making it illegal to attribute Nazi crimes to the Polish state, notably by referencing "Polish death camps". 
 
On the refugee issue, the Polish government announced in mid-January, shortly after Morawiecki took office in a reshuffle, that it would not reverse its opposition to the quota system.
 
Merkel said in the interview that she hoped her talks with Morawiecki would lead to "united and European solutions".
 
Poland's controversial justice reforms, which have also drawn fire from Brussels, prompted the resignation of the head of a Polish body overseeing judicial impartiality.
 
On December 20th, after months of warnings, the European Commission launched an unprecedented procedure against Poland that could strip Warsaw of its voting rights in the bloc if it does not scrap the reforms.
 
On Saturday, Merkel noted that all EU member states were pledged to "respect the principles of the state of law."
 
The podcast did not cover the conservative Polish government's decision last year to revive the issue of World War 2 reparations which it believes Germany owes Poland -- an issue that for years had been considered settled.
 
Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz paid a fence-mending visit to Berlin in January saying the debate should not undermine bilateral ties.
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