Speech by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at a reception of European and international guests on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

09.11.2019 - Speech

A famous German saying goes: A joy shared is a joy doubled.

If we needed to put a headline on the historic events that we are celebrating today, this is the one I would choose.

30 years ago, on that historic night in November 1989, the wall didn’t just fall. It was torn down. Demolished by the people of East Germany whose hunger for freedom and justice was stronger than any fences or walls.

The rest is history:

  • Complete strangers falling into each other’s arms.
  • People dancing on top of the wall, less than one hundred meters from where we are now.
  • And motorcades of Trabis making their way down Kurfürstendamm, welcomed by thousands of cheering West Berliners.

That night, an entire country cried tears of joy.

A shared joy – not just among Germans.

Because bringing down the Berlin Wall didn’t just put an end to the division of Germany.

It dealt the final blow to the Iron Curtain, which had divided our continent for 40 years.

The journey leading there had many stops along the way:

  • In Poland, where already in 1980 the fearless men and women of Solidarność started to oppose the Communist regime. And no one knows better than you, Jacek, what great courage and sacrifice it took to do so, because you was in prison.
  • It was the Hungarians who made the first cut through the Iron Curtain.
  • We also remember the singing revolutionaries in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
  • The men and women joining the velvet revolution in Czechoslovakia.
  • The protesters all over Central and Eastern Europe whose desire for freedom swept away the old regimes.

We Germans won’t forget what their struggle meant for our country.

And for the unity of our continent.

And we won’t forget the trust and support that our friends and allies in the West - in Washington, London and Paris - as well as the leadership of the Soviet Union placed in us.

In light of our history in the 20th century that brought war and destruction to many of your countries, having doubts over a reunited Germany would have been more than understandable.

Instead, you gave us another chance to depart for a better, more peaceful, European future.

German unity was a gift your countries offered us. A gift, we will always be grateful for.

But the legacy of 1989 goes beyond gratitude.

It commits us, especially us Germans, to build a Europe that lives up to the dreams and values of those who took to the streets in 1989.

  • A Europe that is no longer divided between North and South or East and West.
  • A Europe that respects the rule of law and embraces its diversity.
  • A Europe that is strong, sovereign and social.

That is what our citizens expect. That is what we owe them.

Other than some scholars predicted, freedom and democracy did not win over the world after 1989.

  • Power is shifting away from Europe.
  • The United States is increasingly looking inwards.
  • And international law is losing ground.

For us Europeans, there is only one answer to these challenges. And that answer is: Europe.

Only united will our voices be heard in this world.

Only united can we become better partners to our friends and allies.

We all know that building this truly united Europe won’t be easy. In fact, it has never been.

It means that we will have to overcome some of our much-loved national taboos. Especially here in Germany.

But the time to do it is now.

If we need encouragement along the way, we can draw it from the events of 1989.

They show what we are capable of when we think and act beyond national borders.

What we can achieve, when we stand up for freedom, justice and democracy.

And they teach us that a joy shared is a joy doubled.

My joy today is to share this day with all of you. And believe me, that joy is more than doubled by your presence.

So, thank you for being here today!

And thank you for sharing our joy!


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