,,New regionalism"in Poland


WARSAW In the regions of Poland bordering on Germany the secessionist tendencies promoted by Berlin are gathering momentum. In particular there is the growing strength of the regionalist movements which to a certain extent cooperate with the ,,German Minorities"in Poland. German expectations are that this ,,New Regionalism"could spread to the whole of Poland.

,,A Threatening Weapon"

The most recent census in Poland makes clear that the potential of these regionalist movements have grown considerably. 12,5%, that is 173,000 of the population of the ,,Silesia"(the old German name for the area) region registered themselves as ,,of Silesian nationality". A further 153,000 citizens of Poland described themselves as ,,Germans". The organisers of the ,,Movement for the Autonomy of Silesia"(In Polish ,,RAS") which accuses the Polish Government of ,,internal colonialism"and which demands autonomy for the region of Silesia in a ,,Europe of Peoples"( ,,Voelker"- ie ethnic groups) regard the results of the census as a ,,triumph".

The RAS has thereby won a ,,threatening weapon"reports the German Government-financed ,,Deutsche Welle"which has been following these developments closely. The statistics serve as ,,an argument in the battle against the Polish courts"which have forbidden an ,,Association of the People of Silesian Nationality"because there is no such thing as ,,Silesian nationality". The Association seeks to force the Polish State to register the organisation - and thus also this ethnic group - by appeal to the Human Rights Court in Strasbourg. If the Court should find for the Silesians they could send representatives to the Sejm (Polish Parliament) in Warsaw without having to gain the 5% hurdle applicable to Polish parties. This privilege for national minorities already exists for the German speaking minority in Poland.

,,Regionalisation of Poland according to the German Model"

Berlin has been promoting this politically useful regional consciousness since the beginning of the 1990s. It has been supported with millions from the German Interior Ministry which together with their promotion of German culture has been supporting regionalisation. ,,They should not lead to preferential treatment for the Germans over their Polish neighbours but should benefit the whole region". Regionalism is also fed by German research into Silesia which propagates a ,,strong regional culture". ,,The Silesians form an ethnic community in which there continues to be a strong feeling of their own identity".

The German MP Hartmut Koschyk, previously a leading member of the Pan European Union, the Society for German Culture Abroad and the Associations for German Expellees, as long ago as 1991 expounded on the function of regionalism as a the means of German Political Expansion. ,,The discussion of a regionalisation of Poland according to the German model is at present under way (...) Concern with the historic basis of the Silesian region and the understanding for the Germans who live there and who were expelled from there could become a renaissance for the regional consciousness on the other side of the Oder Neisse." 1)

Today this strategy is considered worthy of spreading to the whole of Poland. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitungexplains that the present developments are ,,no Silesian speciality". ,,There are also those in other regions of Poland who say that there is too much centralisation and that too little room for autonomy and self determination has been allowed. The reaction to Warsaw centralism in Upper Silesia could therefore be a major force and could be described as 'New Regionalism'."

1) See ,,Wo die Wurst hängt...". Schlesischer Separatismus in Polen - Schlesienforschung an deutschen Hochschulen; in: Christoph Butterwegge/Gudrun Hentges (Hrsg.): Alte und Neue Rechte an den Hochschulen, Münster: Agenda-Verlag 1999, S. 218ff

See also earlier articles German claims against Polandand Berlin calls ,,expatriate Germans"to the ballot boxes

Schlesische Nationalität; Deutsche Welle Monitor Ost-/Südosteuropa 07.07.2003
Wie es zur ,,Schlesischen Nationalität"kam; Deutsche Welle Monitor Ost-/Südosteuropa 17.07.2003
Polens ,,neuer Regionalismus"; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 01.08.2003