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Address by Ambassador Dr Robert Klinke on the occasion of the Day of German Unity (3 October 2020)

03.10.2020 - Rede

Esteemed ladies and gentlemen,
distinguished partners and friends of Germany,
dear fellow Germans,

I welcome you as you sit at your screens. I am pleased that you have joined me and my team from the embassy in this way to celebrate the Day of German Unity. I would have liked to welcome you all in person at a festive reception, but sadly the COVID-19 pandemic has again forced us to switch to the digital format.

This is all the more regrettable since we are celebrating a historic date. Exactly thirty years ago today, today, on October the 3rd 1990, the entry into force of the Unification Treaty between the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic brought an end to the almost forty year long division of Germany and the Germans. On October the 3rd 1990, the five eastern federal states of Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia joined the Federal Republic of Germany. A dream came true, a dream that even in 1989 very few people in either part of Germany believed in! I myself remember those days very well.

The reestablishment of German unity was, above all, the result of a peaceful revolution of the population in the former GDR. It is to them that we all still owe respect, for the bravery and strength with which they stood up to the SED regime. We all remember the regular discussions of numerous opposition groups in churches across the GDR. We remember the peaceful Monday demonstrations in Leipzig and other places which have become a symbol of the peaceful prodemocracy movement, and which are being imitated in modified forms to this very day – Fridays for Future spring to mind.

Within a short space of time in 1989, a movement emerged in the GDR whose supporters took great personal risks to advocate their ideas of freedom and democracy. Were it not for this pro democracy movement and its people, the borders of the GDR would never have been opened on November the 9th 1989 and the Berlin Wall would never have come down. Without those people, the first free elections for the People’s Chamber would never have been held on March the 18th 1990. Without them, Germany would not be the country it is today.

Ladies and gentlemen,

German reunification would have been inconceivable without the support of the victorious Allies of World War II. To be capable of acting as a state, the new Federal Republic first had to regain its full sovereignty. This happened – after intense and difficult negotiations – when the so called „Two-Plus-Four Treaty“ was signed on September the 12th 1990. The Treaty defined the borders of German territory and provided for Germany’s renunciation of territorial claims towards other states. It determined the size of its armed forces and established that Germany would not produce ABC weapons or initiate wars of aggression. Furthermore, it envisaged the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the former GDR. This Treaty has anchored Germany in the heart of Europe and the Western alliances to this day. The unified Germany gained full sovereignty over its internal and foreign affairs. Today, the victorious Allies of World War II and their successors are our partners and friends. To them, and to all those who made German unity possible, we continue to owe our gratitude.

Where does Germany stand today?

If we Germans take a critical look in the mirror, we have to say that a lot has been achieved over the last 30 years. At the same time, we still have much work to do when it comes to our internal unity. The gap in living standards between west and east has closed substantially. However, many people in Eastern Germany miss the „blooming landscapes“ portrayed by then Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl at the time of reunification. Statistically, the economic power and living standard of the eastern federal states have risen considerably since reunification. Most of the people there are much better off today than they were 30 years ago. By contrast, there are now parts of the former west which lag behind. But what good are the best statistics if many people in the eastern states feel they are second class citizens? Understanding and dismantling this feeling is one of the biggest tasks facing German politics and society right now. The COVID-19 pandemic and its social and economic consequences have made the existing deficits more evident than ever, particularly in the east of Germany. This means that we need to keep working on the solutions.

And what about foreign policy?

The prodemocracy movement in the former GDR was a key driver for the reshaping of Europe. What happened in Germany contributed hugely to the opening of the Iron Curtain and the enormous transformation of political, economic and social systems of Central and Eastern Europe starting in the early 1990s. That period is also marked by the breakup of former Yugoslavia.

Allow me to travel back in time and quote a part of the Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s first policy statement from October the 4th 1990: „Germany wants to use its regained liberty to serve worldwide peace and the unity of Europe. The policies of the Federal Government will be marked by an awareness of German history in all its parts and the responsibility arising from it. Only those who know their origin, have a compass for the future.“

That is what it is all about, to this very day. That is what it will all be about in the future. The Germany of today, which I represent, continues to feel obliged by this avowal, even 30 years after the reestablishment of German unity.

Thank you very much for your attention. Let me also invite you to make use of our extensive digital content we have made available to you on the occasion of 30 years of German unity on our Embassy website today and for the next couple of days.

I would particularly like to draw your attention to the video of a Beethoven concert performed by the „No Borders Orchestra“. The No Borders Orchestra is an ensemble of classical musicians from across the region. With their artistic class they stand for tolerance, respect, reconciliation.

I hope you enjoy it. And please stay healthy in these turbulent times!

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