German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, Poland's Culture Minister Piotr Glinski, center and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki , right, talk during a photo opportunity prior to official meetings in Warsaw, Poland, Friday, Nov. 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

Merkel visits Poland amid calls for World War II reparations

November 02, 2018 - 9:32 am

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Warsaw on Friday amid calls by Polish officials for Germany to pay Poland billions of dollars for damages inflicted by the Nazis during World War II.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki welcomed Merkel during a ceremony ahead of discussions between the two governments.

The talks come amid some strains between the two neighboring states, with many in Poland still bitter about the wartime German occupation, which saw the killing of millions of Polish citizens and massive material destruction.

Polish officials say Germany owes Poland up to $850 billion (743 billion euros) in damages, but Germany insists that Poland has no legal basis for the claims.

A small group picketed outside government offices with Polish flags and banners demanding reparations.

"The Germans must pay for the murder of millions of Polish citizens," one said.

Another key issue straining ties is Nord Stream 2, a German-Russian gas pipeline that Warsaw says will give Russia too much control over energy in Europe, hurting Poland and Ukraine in particular.

Polish government spokeswoman Joanna Kopcinska said energy issues would feature during the talks.

Berlin is also unhappy about changes by the conservative ruling Law and Justice party to Poland's judicial system, which the European Union and others say is eroding judicial independence in Poland. The Polish government says it's reforming a corrupt and inefficient system.

Merkel announced Monday that she plans to step down in December as leader of her party, the Christian Democratic Union, but remain German chancellor until the next election, launching a transition that could last three years.

On Friday afternoon, Merkel is also to meet with the leaders of two Polish opposition parties — Civic Platform and the smaller Polish People's Party — which together with her CDU party belong to the European People's Party in the European Parliament.

Her last stop in Warsaw will be at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where she is to lay a wreath.

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