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Germany 30 years after unification – Who we are, what we stand for

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Chancellor Angela Merkel, in her address at the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, has reaffirmed Germany’s resolve to support and strengthen the UN family. AFP

Germany 30 years after unification – Who we are, what we stand for

Today, Germany is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its reunification. We Germans look back to this event with deep emotion. First and foremost, we are proud that our peaceful revolution happened without bloodshed and violence.

It marked the end of a process that began with the courageous uprisings in parts of Eastern Europe, namely the Solidarnosc movement in Poland. Our reunification would not have been possible without the consent and support of our international partners, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, and the then-Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev.

Their agreement allowed us – under the “Two Plus Four Treaty” – to reunify as a nation based on democracy, the rule of law and a commitment to human rights. At that time, there were also voices of concern. After all, Germany had triggered two world wars, with millions of victims in neighboring countries and the unprecedented crime of the Shoah, the extinction of millions of Jewish lives.

Could Germany be trusted? In the life of a person, celebrating the 30th birthday is often the moment, when parents, families and friends expect us to take full responsibility, build a family and a house, raise children. In analogy, celebrating 30 years of a unified Germany, our partners can expect us to have grown up by now, to be able to define and defend what we stand for and to be a reliable member of the international community.

Looking back, Germany’s “coming of age” can be considered a success story. Most importantly, our own reunification opened the way to the unification of Europe. Bringing our sisters and brothers from Eastern Europe into the family of the European Union has been a true historic achievement, tearing down borders and barriers, opening bridges and opportunities. It has reunited a big part of our continent with its complex common history and culture. It has enabled true reconciliation after centuries of war and bloodshed.

Within Germany, we faced the challenge of overcoming decades of division which had caused alienation of our societies on both sides of the iron curtain. Today, we can be proud of what has been achieved: greatly improved infrastructure in the eastern states of Germany, vibrant cities where tradition and history have been brought back to life and a progressive convergence in economic performance.

But we must realise that work is not finished. Salaries in the east still lag behind those in the west. We have underestimated the emotional dimension of many of our compatriots whose lives changed profoundly from one day to the next and whose biographies are often not respected. And we are facing a disproportionate weight of right wing movements and activists, notably in some parts of eastern Germany. Obviously, we must continue to strive for improvement and to work towards more mutual understanding.

In foreign policy, Germany’s path after 1990 was challenging early on. Only a year after reunification, conflict broke out in the western Balkans as a result of the implosion of former Yugoslavia. During the evolution of these conflicts, it became obvious that Germany had to make tough choices and take a stance in a complex international crisis.

To a certain extent, the country’s post-1945 foreign policy culture was put to a test. The picture of the extinction of the male (and Muslim) population of Srebrenica as well as the massacres and severe human rights violations in Kosovo left a deep impression and led the country to balance its instinctive pacifism with a responsibility to act in the face of brutality and injustice.

In the end, and remembering the atrocities of Nazi Germany, we were an important part of the Transatlantic Alliance trying to act in accordance with the legal obligation of the “responsibility to protect”.

The readiness to take responsibility for international peace and security was further demonstrated by our substantial engagement after 9/11. Our contribution to state- and nation-building in Afghanistan has been the second largest of the entire coalition. We have been a driver of the European Common Foreign and Security Policy with, by now, dozens of military and civilian missions to stabilise conflicts in Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

And what do we stand for today, in 2020, in the wake of new geopolitical confrontations, a progressive and dangerous fragmentation of the international order, the rise of authoritarian populism all over the world and increasing global threats, such as pandemics and climate change?

We see ourselves, first and foremost, firmly anchored in the EU, which we consider our home and destiny. The EU stands for the universal values of inviolable and inalienable human rights, fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law. We see ourselves on the side of those who defend international cooperation and multilateralism. International cooperation will be key if we want to address current challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic or the climate emergency. Chancellor Angela Merkel, in her address at the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, has reaffirmed our resolve to support and strengthen the UN family.

Regarding Southeast Asia, our recent “Policy Guidelines for the Indo-Pacific” emphasise our commitment to supporting regional stability and prosperity through partnerships and international cooperation. Increasing people-to-people contacts and mutual learning from our respective cultures and traditions forms an integral part of our ambition.

As a trading nation, we are reaching out to the world. We believe that fair trade is beneficial to all of us. Creating a network of Free and Comprehensive Trade Agreements, particularly between the EU and economies in Southeast Asia constitutes an important contribution to efficient global trade in goods and services.

Our trade relations depend on regional security and stability, based on established principles of international law, such as UNCLOS. This is why we are ready to engage even more with ASEAN’s initiatives to promote stability in the region.

We have gained a reputation as staunch supporters of international cooperation to fight global challenges. COVID-19 is a reminder that we can only win if we work together, in research, procurement and distribution of vaccines and medicaments.

Climate change is a challenge of extraordinary dimensions. We believe in the necessity of urgent action, by all, to contain global warming and its consequential threat for our planet. To achieve this, all of us, as parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, need to significantly step up our efforts.

As bad as the Covid-19 crisis may be, it is perhaps a wakeup call to see this disruption as a transformative impulse to “build back better”, reduce our dependency on fossil fuels, create new carbon neutral solutions for a circular economy and rehabilitate our marine ecosystems.

As I look at this agenda of Germany’s mission 30 years after unification, I am satisfied to see the remarkable convergence of the agenda with Indonesia’s values, policies and objectives. So let’s capitalize on this partnership to build a better world.

Peter Schoof is German ambassador to Indonesia, ASEAN and Timor Leste



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