- The Ambassador is using the time to learn Polish. We are patiently waiting for the decision of the Polish side," says one of the German diplomats, carefully choosing the words. The stand-off concerning Arndt Freytag von Loringhoven, a 64-year-old, very experienced diplomat appointed by the government of Angela Merkel as the new ambassador to Poland, is now in its second month. The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs is still delaying the issuance of an agrément for his arrival in Warsaw.
A near two-month delay
Agrément is the initial acceptance of a foreign diplomat. After the approval, the ambassador arrives in a new country and prepares for work on the spot. He officially begins his mission by depositing a letter of credentials with the Head of State.
Freytag von Loringhoven was supposed to come to Poland in the first days of July, at the beginning of the German EU presidency. His candidacy as the successor to the retiring Ambassador Rolf Nikel was presented by Berlin in the spring. According to the findings of the "Wyborcza", Warsaw raised no objections. As recently as the beginning of July, Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz publicly assured that "the matter is being taken care of".
We have contacted the Polish Foreign Ministry with requests for information. - The granting of an agrément and the deadline for this decision do not need to be justified," the Ministry's press office responded.
The case is evolving from a diplomatic nuisance into a political crisis. Over the last week, during my conversations with German diplomats I heard about "growing irritation about Warsaw," and "unfriendly behaviour on the Polish side". The ostentatious blocking of the arrival of an allied country's ambassador is an unprecedented step within the EU context. Zbigniew Rau, who has just replaced Jacek Czaputowicz as head of the Polish MFA, will have to take care of the increasingly tense situation.
On Friday, in the backstage of the meeting of EU heads of diplomacy in Berlin, Rau's first trip abroad, he will talk to German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. It is hard to imagine that Germany would not raise the issue of the new ambassador.
His father served in Hitler's bunker, his relative took part in Operation Valkyrie
According to our sources, the decision delaying the arrival of the new German ambassador was made not in the building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but in the headquarters of Law and Justice. In July, Jarosław Kaczyński, the Chairman of the Law and Justice party, read an article in one of the pro-government weeklies detailing the wartime past of Arndt's father, who served in Hitler's bunker at the end of the war. The attack on the incoming ambassador fell on fertile ground - the anti-German phobias of Kaczyński are widely known.
Bernd Freytag von Loringhoven commanded a company of tanks under Stalingrad as an officer of Wehrmacht. At the beginning of 1943, after the Germans were encircled by the Red Army, he was evacuated by one of the last planes leaving Stalingrad before the Nazi surrender. He was promoted to a major and became a staff officer. As a member of the staff, he took part in the military briefings for Adolf Hitler. In 1945, the briefings were held in the infamous bunker under the Reich Office. On April 29, when the fighting against the Red Army and the Polish Army units supporting it was already underway on the streets of Berlin, Bernd Freytag von Loringhoven asked for permission to leave the city and join the front units. His request was granted, and soon Freytag von Loringhoven was taken prisoner by the British.
After the war, he was active in re-building the West German Bundeswehr army, where he became Lieutenant General. In a way, this was a typical career for many German officers of his generation. Why does this bother Kaczyński? Because the chairman of the Law and Justice party has been repeating for a long time that the Germans were not held properly accountable for WWII, they are trying to falsify their history and, just like the Nazis, they want to take control over Poland. He saw the ambassadorial nomination for the son of a Wehrmacht officer as a slap in the face from Chancellor Merkel and even as a signal of anti-Polish policy.
Meanwhile, one of the relatives of the new Ambassador, Wessel Freytag von Loringhoven, was involved in the assassination attempt on July 20, 1944 and supplied Col. Claus von Stauffenberg with the explosives that were to kill Hitler. When the conspiracy was unsuccessful, he committed suicide. For Kaczyński, this is of little importance in the family history of the new ambassador. In his opinion, there was no resistance movement in the Third Reich.
"The Germans will not be electing the Polish president for us"
At first, the delay concerning Freytag von Loringhoven was being seen in relation with the ongoing attacks by the ruling camp, including President Andrzej Duda, on Polish media belonging to German press conglomerates. In particular, it concerns the daily Fakt, published by Ringier Axel Springer, a German-Swiss-American company, which at the end of the election campaign published an investigative article detailing the court case of a man sentenced for paedophilia who was granted a presidential pardon by Duda.
The President responded by growling during his campaign rallies at the time that "Germans will not elect a president for Poles," and Law and Justice politicians demanded that Germany stop "interfering in the Polish elections".
Due to the lack of an ambassador at the time, the charge d'affaires of the German embassy were called on to the Polish Foreign Ministry for explanations. The German government rejected these charges.
The lack of a German ambassador in Warsaw hinders cooperation on Belarus
The Polish diplomats I talk to remember Arndt Freytag von Loringhoven well from the times when Poland was joining the European Union. At that time, Joschka Fischer from the Green Party was the head of the MFA, and Freytag von Loringhoven was judged to be a "good, pro-Polish spirit" a man who understood Central Europe, especially when it came to the widespread fear of Russia.
He spent a few years in Moscow as a diplomat. He was ambassador to the Czech Republic, then deputy head of the BND's foreign intelligence service, and finally deputy secretary general of NATO, where he was responsible for intelligence.
- In normal times, an ambassadorial nomination for a man who knows the region and understands Poles would be perceived very positively," one of the Polish diplomats tells us.
In German-Polish relations, such a delay in issuing an agrément to the new ambassador is unprecedented. All the more so because after the presidential elections were rigged by Alexander Lukashenko's regime, the situation in Belarus is boiling, and Poland and Germany must cooperate closely on the matter. The lack of a German ambassador in Warsaw makes such cooperation difficult.
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