Internal Policies and EU Institutions

Speech following receipt of the Polish‑German Award

Warsaw -
Friday 16/09/2011

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for your kind words.

I should also like to thank you for this honour. It is a great privilege to be counted among the illustrious winners of this award.

Every year, the Polish‑German Award calls to mind the most important event in Polish‑German history of the last twenty years: the signing of the Treaty of Good Neighbourship and Friendly Cooperation in 1991. Two years after the first partially free elections in this part of Europe - and less than a year after German reunification - our countries completed the task of reconciliation. Since then, Polish‑German relations have been better than at any other time in history. This award, therefore, is particularly meaningful to me as a symbol of reconciliation.

The European Union is still drawing strength from the reconciliation of Poland and Germany and the earlier reconciliation of France and Germany. But we must not take the European Union for granted. Rather, we must treat it as an ongoing mission. Every new generation must therefore renew its commitment to integration. In order for reconciliation to last and to have a strong basis, we must ensure above all that it has a basis in solidarity and in the economy.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The list of previous recipients of this award is impressive. What they, and the institutions that they created, share is an ambition to bring the Polish and German nations closer together. Often, these people devoted a large part of their careers to this goal. Sometimes, they devoted their entire lives, as is the case with Archbishop Alfons Nossol - a man to whom I feel particularly close and who has perhaps done more for the cause of Polish‑German reconciliation in Silesia than any other person.

In both our countries, the church occupies an important place in society. Indeed, the process of reconciliation was set in motion by the churches - both Protestant and Catholic. At a time when Poland and Eastern Germany were in bondage, the Church made efforts to stand in for missing institutions of civil society.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A Silesian born in occupied Poland knows well how difficult the history of our nations has been. Politics has usually been to blame for souring relations between Poles and Germans, who have both inhabited Silesia since time immemorial. Many times, people changed their citizenship without changing their place of residence. I am therefore proud that the past two decades of bilateral political efforts and the past seven years within the European Union have done so much to rebuild these relations.

By presenting this award to two successive Presidents of the European Parliament, you are honouring the institution as a whole. For Parliament, the most democratic of the European institutions, is the manifestation of the European idea. An idea that, as we know, grew out of reconciliation.

Today, there is more that unites Poles and Germans than at any other time in history. The border traced out by the rivers Oder and Nysa does not divide us as it once did, but brings us together. Now all that one must do in order to cross it is to find the nearest bridge. We are also connected through our economic cooperation. Germany is Poland's largest trade partner, but what I consider most important is the cooperation undertaken by very competent - and often very young - people.  


Today our mission must be to promote reconciliation and democracy among our closest neighbours. Therefore, both President Pöttering and I have decided to give over the monetary portion of our prizes to fund two stipends - for a Belarusian student and for a Moldovan student - at the 'Bronisław Geremek' Department of European Civilisation at the College of Europe in Natolin. The European Parliament is an active supporter of this department.

In making this gesture, we wish to indicate where Europeans should now be turning their eyes. After all, the history of European integration has shown that helping one's closest neighbours is also of great - and perhaps even greater - benefit to those providing the assistance. Thank you very much.


  • Robert A. Golański


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