Speech by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle at the opening of the Frankfurt Book Fair, 09.10.2012

09.10.2012 - Speech

-- Translation of advance text --

Deputy Prime Minister,
Jörg Uwe Hahn,
Mayor Feldmann,
Mr Boos,
Professor Honnefelder,
Ms Cowley, Mr Manhire,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Te na- koutou, te na- koutou, te na- koutou katoa [Maori greeting].

I’m delighted to open the Frankfurt Book Fair today.

With more than 7,300 exhibitors from over 100 countries, this year’s Book Fair is once more set to become a magnet for visitors.

I’m especially pleased to welcome this year’s Guest of Honour, New Zealand. We’re eagerly looking forward to seeing what this country – which is blessed with both breathtaking scenery and a great storytelling tradition – has to show us.

New Zealand’s impressive landscapes have inspired Germans to discover that country, and not just since the adaptations of the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. More than 66,000 German tourists travel to New Zealand each year.

The geographical distance between Germany and New Zealand couldn’t be any greater. Despite that, much is familiar: the cityscapes as well as the people.

The impression of great affinity isn’t an illusion. Genuine affinity is engendered by common values. Germany and New Zealand share the same values. These include democracy and the rule of law, the need for international cooperation and the primacy of international law. We share an understanding of the value of individual freedom. This is what binds us together.

Our shared values mean that although New Zealand couldn’t be further away from Germany and Europe geographically, it is our neighbour.

On the one hand, New Zealand has been shaped by European influences. On the other, it also has strong Polynesian and Asian influences. New Zealand remains the gateway to a foreign, exotic and fascinating world for us Europeans.

Anyone who has ever felt the breath of the person with whom they are rubbing noses during a hongi, the traditional greeting of New Zealand’s Maori, knows what I’m talking about.

New Zealand combines what is familiar with what seems exotic to us. The culture of European immigrants is combined with Maori culture.

The over 1000 year old oral storytelling tradition of New Zealand’s Polynesian inhabitants comes together with the written tradition of the European explorers and immigrants. What’s more, the country has been exposed to the influences of Asian immigrants.

We see a mutually productive interaction of cultures which generates something completely new and unique.

New Zealand’s society embraces these many different influences with great openness.

New Zealanders are rightly proud that their country is an international role model when it comes to ensuring the economic and social participation of indigenous peoples.

New Zealand is a country of immigration. According to a recent study, New Zealand is top of the league in terms of investment climate and business start ups. New Zealand is a country full of opportunities.

Here in Frankfurt, we’re looking forward to the presentation of this colourful and diverse society.

We’re looking forward to a nation which values culture and is showcasing not only its literature but also theatre, music and film in more than 300 events.

At bilateral level, Germany and New Zealand are working together successfully in a spirit of mutual trust. We both lay great store by our cooperation in the research and technological fields.

Our shared values make Germany and New Zealand natural partners in shaping globalization.

We both want functioning and legitimate multilateral institutions.

There is broad agreement between us on how we assess global issues.

New Zealand is a partner for free trade. New Zealand and Germany have been working for many years to advance nuclear disarmament.

Next year, we’ll be able to look back on 60 years of diplomatic relations between our countries and we intend to celebrate that. We want to take advantage of this landmark anniversary to further extend and intensify our cooperation.

The European Union and New Zealand are also working to place their relations on a new footing with a comprehensive agreement.

Our shared values mean that we look at the world in the same way. The geographical location of our countries, in turn, means that we each see the world from a completely different perspective. That’s what makes our exchanges so valuable.

New Zealand is located in one of the world’s most dynamic regions. The economic upswing in many Asian countries is increasingly also changing the political map.

A global shift is taking place. Many people in Germany still dismiss this as an academic debate.

It has long since had a tangible impact on the Pacific region and New Zealand: China has overtaken the European Union as New Zealand’s second most important trading partner.

Economic strength generates political clout. This, in turn, results in a greater share of responsibility for the world. We need to win over these new players as partners.

Every government is working on this. After all, globalization confronts us with completely new challenges. I am thinking here of climate change, water and food shortages and preserving our planet. Anyone who wants to shape globalization needs strong partners.

Germany’s first response to globalization continues to be Europe.

Germany will not remain strong and well in the long term if Europe becomes the sick man.

The way out of the sovereign debt crisis is difficult. It requires spending discipline, solidarity and growth. We will continue down this road.

Now is the time when Europe’s standing in a changing world will be determined. Will Europe be written off as an old continent, or will we Europeans demonstrate sufficient will to assert ourselves as a community bound together by a common destiny and a shared culture?

There is a European way of life and this way of life must now prove itself, not least in the eyes of the world. Are we still viewed by other peoples and countries as a strong continent with a future, or are we viewed as an old continent whose best days are behind it?

Especially at a time when it already seems to be fashionable to do Europe down with certain remarks, it is absolutely crucial for everybody who knows that freedom, peace and prosperity in Europe cannot be taken for granted to stand up and proclaim their support for the European cause. We need more people to speak out in support of Europe.

For Europe has a price, but it also, more importantly, has a value. And that is something we Germans should never forget.

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