Twenty-Five years of German unity. October 3, 2015 is an occasion for us Germans to celebrate, but also to look back with gratitude.
Back when the Helsinki Final Act was signed 40 years ago, we Germans and our neighbours were already witnessing the advent of a new era in European relations. Together we hoped for stability and peace. The process of detente between East and West paved the way towards ending the Cold War. We are deeply grateful for the trust afforded to us then by our neighbours and partners. It is only thanks to this trust and your agreement that our country could overcome its division and that Europe could grow together once again.
We are grateful to the brave people in the German Democratic Republic and Eastern Europe who brought down the Wall with their desire for freedom and their civic courage. In 1990, German reunification was spurred on by something that still applies today – not only to Germany, but to the whole world: democracy and the rule of law are the guarantors of peace and stability. The reunification of Germany taught us that governments depend on the trust of their citizens. Those who protect fundamental rights win people’s trust, can enjoy full economic and social development, and can develop and maintain trusting relations with their neighbours and partners.
The reunification of Germany 25 years ago brought with it the hope of a more peaceful and stable future. Yet what we are experiencing today is a host of crises and conflicts which to someone of my generation seem unprecedented in their intensity and complexity. War, terror and violence – from the Middle East to the Sahel – are forcing thousands upon thousands of people to flee. At the same time, the most serious conflict since the end of the Cold War is smouldering in Eastern Europe.
Yet today’s storms must not destroy what we have built up over many years: namely the vision of a peaceful order in Europe and beyond the continent, based on dialogue, trust and security. This is what will serve as Germany’s compass when we assume chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe in 2016.
Germany has a responsibility to help shape the future international order. In doing so, it is clear to us that only one thing can provide us with a realistic and legitimate framework for our politics – European integration. Following two World Wars and the division of Germany, this is the only convincing way to organise policy at the heart of Europe.
German responsibility today – 25 years after the reunification of Germany and Europe – does not only mean taking responsibility for one’s own country, but also for the joint European project, for peace and cohesion in Europe.