Shortly before 7 p.m. on 30 September 1989, the then German Foreign Minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, made the announcement from the balcony of the German Embassy which brought such joy and relief to thousands of GDR citizens who had sought refuge there: their departure for the West had been authorised. His words were drowned out by the cheering crowd.
Thirty years later, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is travelling to the Czech Republic. Before setting off, he explained what was important to him:
These people were courageous. And all of us living in united Germany today owe so much to them. The solidarity with the Embassy refugees shown by the citizens of Prague was a key factor. It was one of the finest hours, not only of intra-German but also of German-Czechoslovakian relations, and indeed of Europe.
Heiko Maas will discuss the longing for freedom and a better life with some of those who were refugees in the Embassy back then as well as with others who witnessed these events. In the evening, Maas will speak at the Embassy’s reception to mark the Day of German Unity. In his address, he will also pay tribute to the Czech Republic’s historic role in German unification and the democratic transition in Europe.
New momentum for the Strategic Dialogue
Today, the two Foreign Ministers will sign an ambitious new work programme for the coming two years within the scope of the German-Czech Strategic Dialogue. Since 2015, Germany and the Czech Republic have been cooperating more closely than ever before in 11 working groups. Thanks to this format, the two countries have already achieved much together. For instance, they have launched a joint refugee programme in Jordan and initiated a European network for sustainable forestry.
All of the German and Czech departments involved have many plans for the new work programme for the period until 2021: in the sphere of foreign and security policy and within the framework of the Czech Republic’s chairmanship of the Visegrád group, they are seeking to cooperate more closely on developing a joint policy vis-à-vis the EU’s eastern neighbourhood. The two countries also want to organise a gathering of young Germans and Czechs in Berlin this November. These are only two examples of a comprehensive work programme.