The German government immediately stonewalled over Poland’s claim for compensation for losses sustained in World War II. The $1.3 trillion claim was dismissed as having no legal validity because Poland, Germany argued, renounced its reparations claim back in 1953.
But Poland will not give up so easily. Polish President Andrzej Duda has taken the matter up with the German president, and Poland has called on the the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe to debate the issue.
The most likely outcome of this spat is some form of compromise. Poland’s legal case is hardly watertight. There is no court in which Poland could effectively sue Germany in to get its money, as neither Poland nor Germany accept that the Hague International Court of Justice has any jurisdiction over World War II disputes. But the political issues here matter more than the legal ones.
It may be the case that the reparations issue is being raised for internal domestic reasons in Poland. The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party is all too willing to admit that they want to stand up to Germany, in contrast with the liberal opposition, which has for years argued that Poland must be a close ally of Germany in the EU.
However, more important is the current Polish government’s disputes within the EU over the trend towards social liberalism and West-oriented integration. Add to this the difference of view between Poland and Germany over the war in Ukraine, and the fact that Poland sees Germany as being behind European Commission attacks on it over the rule of law.
Actually, the reparations issue could here be used as part of a compromise.
Germany realizes that Poland has a strong moral and political case and that hiding behind deals made with the USSR is not a good position for Germany to be in. Particularly when it has forked out over €1 billion for pre-World War I atrocities in Namibia.
This is why the most likely settlement is some form of compromise payment so that the matter can be settled outside the court of public opinion.
In order for the amount to be palatable, it could be coupled with a promise to take a less aggressive attitude to Warsaw over EU and other matters. Gaining that kind of leverage over Brussels may in the long run be worth much more to Poland than full reparations.