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Debt crisis brings two former foes closer than ever

world Updated: Dec 10, 2011 00:51 IST
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In the battle over how to save the euro, Germany has plenty of leverage but not many friends. Among its staunchest supporters is also one of the most surprising, its historic enemy, Poland.

For all the damage wrought by the sovereign debt crisis in Europe, it has brought even greater harmony to the fraught and often bloody historical relationship between Poland and Germany.

In the midst of discord, the former foes find themselves closer than ever, perhaps paving the way to a new axis of Paris, Berlin and Warsaw that could eventually form the core of a more deeply integrated Europe.

Poland is a crucial supporting player in the euro drama that is reaching a crossroads with the summit meeting Thursday and Friday in Brussels.

It represents a scarce commodity - a growing economy with enthusiasm for European integration - and even plans to eventually join the euro zone.

Poland's prime minister, Donald Tusk, supports German Chancellor Angela Merkel in her push for full treaty changes to mandate tighter budget rules and oversight, rather than a deal between the countries that use the euro.

And in the wheeling and dealing behind the scenes to reach agreement in Brussels, Poland has several advantages.

Poland's suffering at German and Russian hands, its history of invasion, partition and occupation, puts Polish leaders in a unique position to calm rising concerns of German dominance within Europe.

In an address last week in Berlin, Poland's foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, said that the greatest threat to Poland's security was not Russian missiles or the Taliban and that "it's certainly not German tanks."

Instead, Sikorski said, it was the collapse of the euro zone that offered the paramount danger to his country, and he said he demanded that Germany "as Europe's indispensible nation" take responsibility and lead.