Correspondent in Berlin
“We all wanted to celebrate this 30th anniversary of German unity in a different way! With packed halls and a great city festival here in Potsdam, with thousands of people from all over Germany and our neighboring European countries. A festival that reflects the diversity of our country. The President of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has begun his institutional speech recognizing that the pandemic has ruined the great celebrations planned for this anniversary, but has called on the Germans to remember, in small circles, “the end of the Wall and the fatal shots, espionage and guardianship of the state … we were strengthened in the courage of the people in the fall of 1989, we look with gratitude to the end of the Cold War and the dawn of a new time and we can look back on the common path that our country has since taken towards a reunified, free and democratic country in the center of Europe ». “Lucky! What an achievement! We are very proud of this on this day and: no pandemic can prevent us from doing it! ”He celebrated.
Steinmeier has reflected on how different were the two german reunifications and the ideas on which they were based. “National unity in 1871 was brutally enforced, with iron and blood, after wars with our neighbors, based on Prussian rule, militarism and nationalism,” he said, recalling the “little children who could barely look over the edge of the table, but already proudly wearing a uniform and enthusiastically playing the war drum. “This glorification of militant nationalism, this glorification of war and heroic death, from childhood, was the unfortunate spirit of the time,” he stated, in contrast to the images of “people celebrating on the Wall, tears of joy, hugs, soldiers and policemen who dropped their weapons. Fear had switched sides, state power was no longer important because people no longer followed it.
A good part of his speech consisted of a message of gratitude from Germany to the western democracies that supported the reunification process and the previous steps taken from Moscow by Mikhail Gorbachov. “We have to make this clear again and again: without the peace agreements with Poland and the Soviet Union, without the recognition of the Oder-Neisse Line in international law, without the Helsinki process, without NATO and the European Union, reunification would not have taken place. And without the courage of Mikhail Gorbachev, who will soon celebrate his 90th birthday. We do not forget it, and for that we thank you! ». “Even without the United States of America,” he insisted, “without its indispensable commitment to a strong and respected postwar order, without its unconditional support for European integration, we would not be reunited today. On this day we expressly thank this America! And our European friends too! ‘
«Our unity is a unity in freedom and diversity, a unit that Germany must always define in European terms! ”, stressed the German president. “We decided not to look at the national navel, but to build a European Germany. This is the path we want to follow. Responding to the anti-European nationalist movements that have emerged in Germany in recent years, with particular success in the eastern Bundesländer, Steinmeier has said that “there are those who always look to the past for answers to questions of the future. But: How ahistorical must be those who wave the black, white and red flag of the German Reich of 1871, including the flag of the Reich War, in front of the democratically elected Bundestag! They want another state, an authoritarian and aggressively marginalized state. They are placed in a tradition that does not represent this republic, nor our democracy. No: Today we stand firmly on the foundations of the freedom movement and the history of democracy! We refer to the ideas of the Hambach Festival, the Paulskirche, the Weimar Democracy, the Basic Law and the Peaceful Revolution. We are proud of these traditions of freedom and democracy, proud of these historical roots, without repressing our vision of the abyss of the Shoah. And the colors of this democratic history are the colors black, red and gold, the colors of unity, justice and freedom. These are the colors of our country, they flutter from the buildings of our democracy! We will not allow them to be repressed, abused or appropriate. Black-red-gold are our colors, we won’t let them take them away! “
“Thirty years after reunification, where are we today?” He wondered. «I think we live in a paradox. We are not that close to where we should be. But at the same time we are much closer than we think. Steinmeier has acknowledged that “there is still a clear wage gap between East and West. Very few large companies have established themselves east of the Elbe. And the East Germans still have to be searched with a magnifying glass in the management floors of companies, universities, ministries or the Bundeswehr. But he noted that “joint growth is not limited to labor market statistics and economic data. The feeling of belonging, of being seen and taken seriously at eye level, is not only determined by payroll. Our task continues to be to get closer to each other on a human level, to remain curious, to know and respect the world and the perspectives of other people.
“Yes, we live today in the best Germany that has ever existed”, the German president congratulated himself, “Let us thank everyone who worked on this! Let’s wait for it together! And above all: let’s build on it for a good future! … Many of the things we have taken for granted over the past thirty years are no longer safe. But the humility that the coronavirus has taught us it does not mean resignation and discouragement. Unlike. We need courage, like thirty years ago. In these times of pandemic, our country shows that we are united, that we are strong and that we act responsibly. We have every reason to be confident. The pandemic will not take away the future. So: let’s be careful, yes. Let’s focus on fighting the virusyeah. But let’s freeze in worry. We should focus on what needs to be done urgently. The future after Corona is being negotiated now, around the world. Climate, digitization, cohesion. We have to be there, we have to be good, and fast, and willing to rethink, yes, in some cases to rethink radically. The melting poles, the conflagration in California, remind us that the future cannot be delayed. The erosion of the international order, the forces that pull a united Europe, the new divisions in our society, challenge us everywhere, “he concluded, requesting a national monument to the peaceful revolution of 1989.” We can take advantage of the experiences of the Peaceful Revolution, when the wall not only fell, it was brought to collapse by hundreds of thousands who fought together for a better life. We can build on the tremendous achievement of 16 million people, whose lives were turned upside down, who had to start over, who have learned anew, who have reinvented themselves. This courage, this drive, we also need today! So, allow me the suggestion: if the Peaceful Revolution can be a stimulus for us today too, then let’s create a place that reminds us of this value! “