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The Power of Freedom

12.02.2011 - Interview

What power the idea of freedom evokes has these days been plain for all to see. Thanks to their unshakable commitment to democratic change, the Tunisians have written their country’s history anew in a way that just a few weeks ago would have been inconceivable.

Freedom and democracy are never hand-outs, they are won by struggle alone. Inspired by their yearning for a better life, the Tunisian people in the space of days swept away by their own efforts decades of dictatorship. With impressive courage and at tremendous cost, they opened a new chapter in their country’s history. For this they deserve our esteem and respect.

We in Germany – in the light of our own history especially – have been following the Jasmine Revolution with great admiration. Like the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the GDR, recent events in Tunisia make clear that what destabilizes a country is not the enjoyment of freedom and civil rights but their denial. The way to achieve stability is democracy – that is the only way in fact.

People in Tunisia took to the streets for values that are universal: freedom, democracy, the rule of law. That is the message from Tunisia, a message that is now also being heard in Egypt. Freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of the media are rights belonging to all citizens.

Anyone demanding these rights has our full support. We are wholeheartedly committed to the cause of democracy and the democrats. We therefore support the Tunisians’ efforts to make democratic change irreversible.

The country cannot be transformed from outside of course; this is a process that can only be taken forward by people on the ground. So we note with great good will Tunisia’s determination to set the country on track for democracy with a programme of wholesale reform. This is clearly a Tunisian process, for which outside assistance can be no substitute.

Should people in Tunisia so wish, Germany and Europe stand ready as friends and partners to assist them on their chosen path. For democratic transition processes there are no blueprints or patent recipes. In many fields, however, we can offer help based on our own experience – from advice on developing an independent justice system to economic cooperation. That goes also and in particular for the preparation of free and fair elections, a step of crucial importance for the new Tunisia. If the country’s next elections meet democratic standards, Tunisia can be a role model for the entire region.

History teaches that in the long run oppression cannot endure.People in Tunisia dared to demand democracy and the rule of law. Their example has inspired others. They are striking out on a new path – and they can count on our support.

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