Welcome

Speech by Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the graduation ceremony held in the German-Polish Grammar School in Löcknitz

12.07.2008 - Speech

-- Translation of advance text --

Mr Scherer,

Mayor Meistring,

Dr Boehning,

Radek Sikorski,

Ms Golisowicz,

Parents, teachers and friends of the German-Polish Grammar School (European School) Löcknitz,

and above all: pupils of the class of 2008,

It is a great pleasure for me to take part in your graduation ceremony together with my Polish colleague and friend Radek Sikorski. What we are witnessing here today is German-Polish understanding and the European idea put into practice.

Some politicians could draw fresh inspiration from time to time from the energy and enthusiasm so evident in your school when it comes to understanding what Europe means to young people in Germany and Poland today.

Today you are receiving your higher education entrance qualification, the Abitur, – or the Matura as they say in Poland. Congratulations! I remember only too well how proud I was on this day some – well, to be quite honest, many years ago. My parents were simply relieved!

However, there is one major difference between you and me: you have earned this qualification not only by swotting up on English vocabulary and grammar, solving difficult maths problems or learning by heart history dates and geographical names as I did. In addition, you also gained it by showing understanding on a daily basis, getting along with each other, learning with and about one another and by putting into practice the tolerance this required.

This formative experience will be of great value when you go into the "real" world. It will provide you with opportunities in Germany or in Poland which your contemporaries won't have.

You can be thankful to your school and your teachers for that and you should cultivate the German-Polish friendships made in Löcknitz for a long time to come.

The German-Polish Grammar School in Löcknitz has been a European school since 2004. It is committed not only to German-Polish understanding but also to the European idea.

You, today's graduates, personify this new Europe: most of you were probably born as the division of Europe was coming to an end!

You are part of the first generation of Poles and Germans for whom European integration has become normal and a matter of course and who have never known anything else.

On this memorable day, I would like to ask you to take up the European cause. Let us all put the European idea into practice and continue working on it. For Europe still needs our active commitment so that ordinary citizens finally grow together.

For this Europe is not an abstract idea. Rather, it can be shaped and experienced in quite a concrete way. Following the complete opening of borders last December under the Schengen Agreement, it's so easy to travel to nearby Szczecin and the citizens of that city can enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

And if you decide to go on to university, you will find the door open to many European countries and EU funding programmes.

Cross-border research is also funded by the EU – the Marie Curie Actions, named after an illustrious daughter of Poland and Europe, were introduced for that very purpose.

And it is perfectly normal nowadays for Poles from Szczecin or its surroundings to move to Löcknitz and work on either side of the border. As we can see today, the entire region is benefiting from this dynamic development.

This, too, is a fundamental experience of the European project: thinking and working together beyond borders is rewarding for everyone concerned!

That should encourage us to tackle quite concrete challenges ahead with resolve: for example, the extension of road and rail links here in the region or improved cross-border cooperation between the emergency services.

If we look at the border region as a whole then the River Oder loses its function as a national dividing-line. Then it can become an axis of joint development in the region.

The German-Dutch-Belgian border can serve as a model for this. There, we have achieved a high degree of integration in many fields of cross-border cooperation. Joint police patrols and integrated regional transport systems have long since been the norm there.

There is still much untapped potential in our relations with Poland. We are determined to make use of it together – especially as Poland is not just our second largest neighbour but also a very important partner for Germany within Europe.

As genuine partners, today we can discuss any issue frankly – and aspire to great things together.

For example, Foreign Minister Sikorski and I have launched a whole series of joint initiatives during the last few months aimed at intensifying our mutual understanding and, at the same time, advancing the EU.

This includes the German-Polish history textbook, which is intended to help future generations of pupils to develop a common understanding of the difficult chapters in German-Polish relations.

This includes an agreement on close coordination and cooperation in the run-up to Poland's EU Presidency.

The search for joint answers to the challenges of the future in the sphere of energy and climate policy – for example new technologies for the efficient use of carbon fuels – is another key area where close cooperation promises to be of mutual benefit.

There are a host of other issues ahead concerning the future, also in the field of foreign and security policy, which Germans and Poles can bring forward together.

Here we must bear in mind that the more we know about each other, the better we understand each other, the more we can develop common visions for a united Europe. For this we rely on you and your generation!

During the last few years you yourselves have worked together to lay the basis for a bright future – for you personally and for the further intensification of German-Polish relations.

I'm therefore especially pleased to be here today with Radek Sikorski to hand over your certificates.

Thank you very much!

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