Border: Germany-Poland

Date(s) of establishment: Current demarcation in 1945 (Potsdam Conference)
Length of border: 472 km
Regions concerned: Germany – Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (West Pomerania), Brandenburg, Sachsen (Saxony); Poland – Zachodniopomorskie (West Pomerania), Lubuskie, Dolnośląskie (Lower Silesia)

European programme(s):

The German-Polish border, at a length of 472 km, mainly follows the course of the Oder and its tributary, the Neisse. For this reason it is frequently referred to as the “Oder-Neisse” line. However, in the north the border moves away from the Oder, passing to the west of Szczecin.


It is only from the end of the First World War onwards that one can speak of a German-Polish border. Indeed, the Treaty of Versailles (28 June 1919) recognises the independence of Poland and establishes the demarcation of its western border, which corresponds in part to that of 18th-century Poland. Substantial areas in eastern Germany are attributed to Poland by the treaty or by referendum. East Prussia remained German, separated from the rest of Germany.

At the end of the Second World War, during the Potsdam Conference (2 August 1945), the Allies decided to use the line formed by the rivers Oder and Neisse as the line of demarcation separating Germany and Poland. This decision was accompanied, in the territories that came under Polish administration, by a significant displacement of German populations towards Germany and an influx of Poles from the former eastern territories of Poland that had come under Soviet administration. In addition, the new boundary line resulted in the division of the German cities Küstrin, Frankfurt an der Oder, Guben and Görlitz, whose eastern parts became new Polish municipalities.

With the Treaty of Zgorzelec (6 July 1950), the Oder-Neisse line was confirmed as the border between the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and the People’s Republic of Poland, both states describing it as a “border of peace”. In 1967 an agreement signed between the GDR and Poland allowed Polish inhabitants of the border regions to be employed in the GDR, and from 1972 the border between the GDR and Poland experienced a brief period of openness before closing again in 1980.

On 7 December 1970, West Germany and Poland signed a treaty in Warsaw under which both countries recognise the inviolability of the borders resulting from the Potsdam Conference (1945) and renounce all territorial claims.

The “Two Plus Four Agreement” (12 September 1990) confirmed the borders of reunified Germany as set in 1945. Following German reunification, Germany and Poland signed a treaty on the German-Polish border (14 November 1990) which confirmed the demarcation of their shared border, as fixed by the Treaty of Zgorzelec. It was accompanied by a treaty “on good neighbourly relations and friendly cooperation” (17 June 1991), whereby Germany considers positively the prospect of Polish accession to the then European Community and the two parties commit themselves to supporting German-Polish reconciliation, notably through actions in the fields of cross-border cooperation and spatial planning.

Cross-border cooperation:

Immediately following the political transformations of the early 1990s, the German-Polish border saw the creation of its first cross-border structures, such as the Euroregion Neisse (DE, CZ, PL, 1991), the Euroregion Spree-Neisse-Bober (DE, PL, 1993), the Euroregion Pro Europa Viadrina (DE, PL, 1993), and the Euroregion Pomerania (DE, PL, SE, 1995).

German-Polish cross-border cooperation experienced a turning point with the entry of Poland into the European Union (2004) and the Schengen area (2007). Villages of the former East Germany – deserted after the fall of the Wall – are experiencing a resurgence thanks to Polish immigration. Many villages in Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern have thus become "commuter towns" and commuter flows have multiplied. These new flows have allowed the eastern side of Germany to remain fairly dynamic in demographic terms and maintain much infrastructure that could have disappeared.

At the local level, the German and Polish cities divided by the border have come together with the help of cross-border projects and some of these cities emphasise a common identity ("Frankfurt (Oder) – Słubice Ohne Grenzen," "Eurostadt-Euromiasto Guben-Gubin” and “Europastadt Görlitz-Zgorzelec").

At the regional level, the Oder Partnership ("Oder-Partnerschaft") has been bringing together regions and cities since 2006 as part of an informal network, namely: the Länder of Berlin, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Saxony, and the voivodeships of Greater Poland, West Pomerania, Lower Silesia and Lubuskie as well as the Polish cities of Szczecin, Gorzów Wielkopolski, Zielona Góra, and Wrocław.  This network aims to strengthen territorial and political integration of the German-Polish cross-border area.

The border between Germany and Poland is today at the heart of several cross-border cooperation programmes – the operational programmes "Mecklenburg-Vorpommern/Brandenburg – Zachodniopomorskie", "Województwo Lubuskie – Brandenburgia", "Sachsen – Polska", and on a larger scale, the "South Baltic" programme.

  • The Mecklenburg-Vorpommern/Brandenburg – Zachodniopomorskie cross-border programme aims to contribute to equitable and balanced development of the cross-border region by strengthening the links between citizens, businesses and institutions. This programme focuses on several priorities, the first being transport. The improvement of cross-border transport infrastructure is required for the development of exchanges in border regions. The programme is also focused on human resources. Social and cultural activities offered by the regions have already greatly contributed to breaking down the language barrier.

  • The main objective of the Województwo Lubuskie – Brandenburgia programme is the joint development of the territory and the reduction of “border effects”. It aims to promote the sustainable development and the economic competitiveness of the border territory through an integrated cross-border approach. More specifically, this involves the improvement of local infrastructure and the environmental situation, as well as supporting cross-border economic development – including the fostering of economic links within the scientific community, and supporting SMEs in cross-border marketing actions. The area covered by the programme is characterised, on the one hand, by a lack of cross-border infrastructure and differences in per capita income between neighbouring regions and, on the other hand, by a common spatial planning policy and a desire for cooperation.

  • The Sachsen – Polska programme concerns the southern part of the border. More specifically, it is active in favour of cross-border social inclusion and focuses on initiatives in areas such as art, culture and education. The first strand of the programme focuses on cross-border regional development in terms of the economy and science, tourism, transport and communication, environment and spatial planning. The second strand focuses on cross-border integration of society, including education, art and culture as well as social infrastructure.

  • Lastly, the "South Baltic" operational programme is active on a larger scale, that of the maritime area south of the Baltic Sea, involving five countries of the European Union: Germany, Poland, Sweden, Denmark and Lithuania. The programme's objective is to strengthen the sustainable development of the area through joint actions. To achieve this, the programme aims to attract more investment in the region and thus improve the social environment of the area.

Territory projects and institutional bodies for cooperation

Cross-border cooperation at the regional level

Eurorégion Pro Europa Viadrina
Eurorégion Neisse-Nisa-Nysa

Cross-border cooperation at the local level

Frankfurt (Oder)–Słubice