Kohl yields and pledges quick border treaty during visit of Polish leader

November 09, 1990|By Ian Johnson | Ian Johnson,Special to The Sun

FRANKFURT AN DER ODER, Germany -- Poland and Germany unexpectedly agreed yesterday to a series of steps designed to improve their strained relations, the main one a concession by German Chancellor Helmut Kohl that a treaty guaranteeing the current border with Poland along the Oder and Neisse rivers should be signed this month.

A separate friendship treaty between both countries would be "promptly" negotiated, and both were to be passed by the end of February, Mr. Kohl said at the end of his summit with Polish Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki.

In addition to the timetable for the two treaties, both sides agreed that:

* Visa-free travel should be restored by the year's end.

* Germany would help Poland gain admittance to the European Community at an unspecified date.

* Residents of Poland who had been slave laborers for Nazis would receive compensation from Germany.

* More border crossings would be opened.

* A highway would be built between Warsaw and Berlin.

* Sport, cultural, youth and ecological contacts would be established.

"Our goal is that this border brings us together and that it doesn't become a division between rich and poor in Europe," Mr. Mazowiecki said.

The Polish side had made clear that it wanted to sign the border treaty yesterday, whereas the Germans were equally firm that no such pact would be signed until agreement was reached on a friendship treaty -- including a clause protecting the rights of the German minority in Poland.

A compromise seemed unlikely as both men are in the middle of election campaigns, but Mr. Kohl, perhaps sensing that he already has won Germany's Dec. 2 vote, agreed to settle the border treaty this month before securing the German minority's rights.

This concession risked alienating far-right voters, many of whom lived in the former German area that was annexed by Poland after World War II.

"I am deeply convinced that real peace in Europe will only be possible . . . when Poles and Germans take this step toward a peaceful future together," Mr. Kohl said.

Most observers were not expecting many agreements to be reached, and the length of the talks -- an hour longer than scheduled -- was seen as a bad sign. But both men came out of the private discussions smiling and walked together to a news conference to announce the results.

Mr. Mazowiecki's trip made him the first head of state to visit the newly unified Germany and came exactly one year after Mr. Kohl interrupted a visit to Warsaw to fly back to Berlin as the Berlin Wall was opened.

The location of the talks was equally significant because the city lies directly on the Oder River and until last month was the scene of more border traffic than either country had experienced in 50 years.

In October, however, Germany started to require visas for Poles wanting to enter because it wanted to stop the number of illegal immigrants and black marketeers entering Germany. Poland responded with its own visa requirement, with the result that thousands of Germans who had been buying cheaper produce and clothing in Poland were denied entry.

To symbolize the close ties possible between the two countries, Mr. Kohl and Mr. Mazowiecki left the city and crossed the bridge into the Polish city of Slubice, a former suburb of Frankfurt.

There they had coffee and cake and -- different from the days when the Poland and East Germany's relationship was that of an enforced "people's friendship" of communism -- both leaders were thronged by crowds of hopeful people.

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