BERLIN (AP) — The leaders of Germany and Poland sought Friday to calm their countries' ruffled relations, underlining areas of agreement on improving the Europe Union's external borders and the need to bolster the bloc's joint defense.

Ties between the two neighbors have been strained in recent years by differences over how the EU should deal with refugees and a pipeline project that Warsaw says will harm neighboring Ukraine.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel noted the growing economic links between her country and Poland, and said it was important to bolster civil society relations too.

"There's a lot we can do better, but there's also a lot on the way," she told reporters after meeting for the first time with Poland's new prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki.

Merkel acknowledged that she and Morawiecki "have different points of view, especially on the subject of refugees."

Several countries in Eastern Europe claim that Merkel encouraged hundreds of thousands of refugees to flood into Europe by opening her country's border in 2015, and have refused to participate in an EU deal that would see migrants distributed across the 28-nation bloc.

Merkel also made clear that Germany stands by its responsibility for the World War II atrocities committed by the Nazis in neighboring Poland, an issue that is particularly sensitive for Warsaw. The Polish government recently adopted a legislation to punish anyone who suggests Poles were responsible for the Holocaust crimes committed by Nazi Germans.

Morawiecki said it was important to counter "lies" about Poland's role during the war and downplayed a recent call for Polish expatriates to report untrue or hostile statements about Poland abroad.

"Don't make a mountain out of a molehill," said Morawiecki.

Merkel said she believes talks between the European Commission and Poland about the country's judicial reforms are "on a good path."

Speaking later Friday at the Koerber Foundation think tank in Berlin, Morawiecki said he favored a revival of the Weimar Triangle, a platform of political cooperation between Poland, Germany and France.

Morawiecki was to lay flowers at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe before traveling on to the Munich Security Conference.


Scislowska reported from Warsaw, Poland.