BONN — West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl on Thursday repeated his willingness to support a declaration by both German parliaments renouncing any territorial claims against Poland, but he drew stiff criticism from neighboring European countries and domestic political foes for refusing to give more definitive assurances.
"No one must link the question of a single Germany with any shift in existing borders," Kohl told a news conference here.
He said he would have "no objection" if the West German Bundestag and a freely elected East German Volkskammer were to pass a joint resolution declaring that Germans, as they approach unification, have no territorial claims on territory that used to be German before World War II.
However, Kohl underscored his earlier position that only a unified Germany has the power under international law to negotiate a formal treaty on the issue with Poland.
Kohl also seemed to distance himself from a proposal put forward last week by Polish Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki. The Polish leader suggested that the two German states begin treaty negotiations with Poland immediately after East Germans hold their first free elections in more than half a century on March 18--but that treaty ratification be left until after reunification.
Proponents of the Mazowiecki plan claim that it would allay Polish concerns stirred by Kohl's elliptical remarks on the issue, yet still recognize the fact that only a united Germany can sign and ratify such a document.
"I have not accepted that proposal," Kohl said flatly.
Sources in the chancellery had said Wednesday that the Polish proposal was under consideration.
Kohl's agreement Wednesday to back the idea of a parliamentary declaration, left many critics dissatisfied.
The head of the opposition Social Democrats, Hans-Jochen Vogel, charged that such declarations are not enough. The two governments have to unequivocally commit themselves to the idea, he said.
Vogel noted that the West German Bundestag had passed a similar resolution last November before Kohl's visit to Poland.
"Just repeating a parliamentary resolution isn't enough," he said.
French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas, speaking in West Berlin, also demanded a clearer statement from Kohl, although he did not mention the chancellor by name.
"This border is untouchable and this must be said without delay to kill the uncertainty and fear that form the seeds of instability," he said.
In Warsaw, news agencies reported contradictory official views on Kohl's statement.
The West German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur quoted Polish government spokeswoman Malgorzata Niezabitovska as describing Kohl's proposal for a joint parliamentary declaration as "a certain step forward." The Reuters news agency, however, said Poland's deputy government spokesman told reporters in Warsaw that Kohl's idea "gives nothing."
Both West and East Germany already have treaties that acknowledge Poland's existing western frontier with Germany that runs along the line of the Oder and Neisse rivers. But the prospect of imminent German reunification coupled with Kohl's refusal to address the subject as clearly as other West German leaders has unsettled several European countries, including Poland.
Kohl's hesitancy is believed to be motivated largely by a reluctance to alienate about 2 million West Germans with close cultural links to regions in western Poland that were taken from German possession after World War II. This constituency forms an important part of Kohl's political support in the run-up to what promises to be an extremely close general election later this year.