Berlin is considering implementing border checks with Poland to address the increasing number of asylum seekers entering Germany. However, strained relations between the two countries, along with an ongoing diplomatic dispute, could complicate these plans.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government is facing growing pressure to address the surge in irregular migration, particularly through the Polish and Czech borders. To tackle this issue, discussions are underway between German officials and counterparts in Poland and the Czech Republic to potentially introduce temporary border checks.
During a recent political rally, Scholz connected the current border crisis with an alleged visas-for-bribes scandal that has impacted Poland’s anti-immigrant government in the lead-up to the national election. Instead of relying solely on quotes, we can highlight the scandal by describing it as a situation where Polish consulates have reportedly distributed temporary visas in exchange for bribes, granting EU access.
In response, Poland’s foreign minister, Zbigniew Rau, criticized Scholz’s remarks, accusing him of interference in Poland’s internal affairs and election campaign. He called for respect of Poland’s sovereignty and urged Scholz to refrain from making statements that could harm their mutual relations.
Tensions between Germany and Poland have been rising, with Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party often targeting Germany during its election campaign. This includes demanding reparations for World War II, a demand that Germany has rejected.
German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser’s spokesperson stated that controls on the Polish and Czech borders might be necessary to combat criminal networks engaged in migrant smuggling. The number of asylum applications in Germany has risen significantly, with a 77% increase during the first eight months of 2023 compared to the same period last year. Friedrich Merz, the leader of the center-right Christian Democrats, has expressed concerns about overwhelmed German municipalities due to the influx.
The political landscape in Germany is also being influenced by the rise of far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in the polls. Even the center-left Greens, part of Germany’s coalition government, have recently adopted a tougher stance on migration.
Scholz’s spokesperson, Steffen Hebestreit, refuted claims that the chancellor is meddling in Poland’s domestic affairs while emphasizing Germany’s commitment to pressing Warsaw to address the visa scandal allegations.
Experts suggest that the alleged visa scandal, while notable, plays a relatively small part in overall migration flows across the Polish-German border. Smugglers prefer this route between Germany and Poland and the Czech Republic.
Despite the tensions, discussions between Germany and Poland regarding potential border checks are progressing. Minister Faeser plans to speak with her Polish counterpart to reach a common position on the matter.