Foreign Minister Heiko Maas issued the following statement today (16 March) to mark today’s publication of the German-Danish Declaration of Friendship:
It is a great pleasure for me to mark the centenary of the peaceful demarcation of the border between Germany and Denmark by adopting the German-Danish Declaration of Friendship together with my counterpart Jeppe Kofod.
Although Germany and Denmark share a short border, they can look back on a long tradition of friendly cooperation. The minorities in the German-Danish border region play an especially important role in this – for they have built bridges across the border. The way in which people live alongside each other in harmony and mutual trust in the border region sets an example for Europe and for the world. Hostility turned into peaceful coexistence and subsequently mutual support.
The closeness of relations between Germany and Denmark is largely thanks to young people on both sides of the border. It was therefore especially important to me to talk together with Jeppe Kofod to a group of German and Danish student ambassadors today who are actively promoting friendship and mutual understanding in the border region in an admirable fashion.
We want to further develop our friendly relations together and work even more closely in future in the political, economic and cultural spheres – for example, by expanding our cooperation on renewable energies, environmental protection and in development cooperation. To this end, Jeppe Kofod and I adopted a German-Danish Declaration of Friendship today.
The border between Germany and Denmark was redrawn in 1920 following plebiscites. Denmark celebrated its reunification but the new border resulted in minorities living on both sides of the border. Two decades later – when Nazi Germany occupied Denmark – our relations reached a low point. After the end of the Second World War and the signing of the Bonn-Copenhagen Declarations in 1955, life in the border region and bilateral relations developed positively on a durable basis. Today, Denmark and Germany are close partners.
Due to the pandemic, many of the planned events marking the centenary of the peaceful demarcation of the border between Germany and Denmark had to be cancelled. Among other things, that applied to the 2020 German-Danish Cultural Year of Friendship, of which the two Foreign Ministers Heiko Maas and Jeppe Kofod were joint patrons. It was against this background that the German-Danish Declaration of Friendship came about.
A joint visit to the border region to mark the declaration was actually planned. As a result of the pandemic, however, a virtual discussion with student ambassadors from the German minority in southern Denmark and the Danish minority in Schleswig-Holstein was held instead today. “Student ambassadors” is a joint project of the three minority grammar schools Deutsches Gymnasium für Nordschleswig (Apenrade), Duborg-Skolen (Flensburg) and A. P. Møller Skolen (Schleswig). It has been coordinated by “Grænseforening”, the Danish border and culture association. The German partner is the ADS-Grenzfriedensbund e. V. in Flensburg. All in all, around 120 young people from the border region are working on this project. Using exercises, games and stories from their own lives, they convey what it means to grow up in a national minority.