Germany cites free speech amid Polish ire at Carnival float

AP News
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Posted: Feb 10, 2016 11:53 AM
Germany cites free speech amid Polish ire at Carnival float

BERLIN (AP) — The German government rejected a suggestion Wednesday that it might take action over a Carnival float that drew the ire of Poland's government this week.

Poland's foreign minister Witold Waszczykowski said Tuesday that a float shown in the western city of Duesseldorf showed "disrespect toward Poles and Polish politicians" and that Warsaw wants to know "what is the aim of such antics."

The float, built for this week's Rose Monday parade, portrayed Poland's ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski dressed as a dictator with the heel of his boot on the head of a submissive, bleeding female figure representing Poland.

"We have freedom of expression and freedom of art in Germany," government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin after a question about Waszczykowski's comments. "That can be less than comfortable for those who are artistically depicted; nevertheless, freedom of expression and freedom of art are still valid here."

Asked whether the government would reprimand anyone, Seibert replied: "That is far from the government's mind."

Relations between Germany and Poland have worsened since the nationalist Law and Justice party took power in Poland last November. Several German officials have questioned the new government's direction, prompting a backlash from Polish officials that at times cited references to Germany's Nazi-era crimes.

The Carnival spat comes ahead of a visit Friday by Poland's new Prime Minister Beata Szydlo to Berlin for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Seibert said the meeting would focus on tackling the migrant crisis in Europe as well as "bilateral issues."