Video message from Foreign Minister Heiko Maas for the event marking 70 Years of the Goethe-Institut

22.11.2021 - Speech

The first thing anyone abroad thinking about German culture will think of is the Goethe-Institut.

The organisation’s excellent reputation as Germany’s cultural ambassador and a truly “global brand” is the result of the special commitment shown by its staff over the past 70 years.

I therefore send my warmest congratulations on this success and on your 70th anniversary to you all – both for my own part and on behalf of the Federal Republic of Germany.

The history of the Goethe-Institut is closely interwoven with the development of cultural relations policy. Our partners worldwide have helped to shape it.

At first some people in the Federal Republic thought it was very daring to put responsibility for implementing cultural relations policy in practice into the hands of a civil-society organisation. Over the many years of cooperation between the Federal Foreign Office and the Goethe-Institut, between politicians and civil society, however, it has proved to be a very successful move.

We work hand in hand:

with respect on both sides for our abilities and tasks, firmly resolved to open our country up to the world and to build its image worldwide; hoping to bring our language and culture closer to people; and, not least, with the aim of enabling our artists, creative professionals and civil society to enjoy exchange with other countries.

In the last two years, we have in addition worked together to do what we can to launch measures to ease the pandemic’s impact on culture – on the Goethe-Institut itself, but also on our global network of partners.

With the International Aid Fund for Cultural and Educational Organisations, we have successfully introduced a new approach – also for cooperation with our partners.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Two years ago, shortly after the democratic revolution, I travelled to the Sudan. During my trip, I visited the Goethe-Institut in Khartoum. During my talks there, I could sense the spirit of optimism, but also the fragility of the hopes, of an entire generation of young Sudanese – hopes that have recently been bitterly dashed.

The Goethe-Institut branches around the world are invariably mirrors of the societies in which they work. And they are havens for pluralism, openness and diversity of opinion.

That is important in a time when the international balance is shifting and when our liberal values have long been under pressure. In this situation, cultural relations policy becomes even more crucial for our global engagement. Because cultural work takes place in the pre-political sphere – but it is never apolitical.

Given the global political changes and new challenges we face, I am convinced that we need to do more – for our cultural relations policy and of course also for the Goethe-Institut.

Allow me to emphasise three points.

Firstly, climate change mitigation and sustainability, the digital transformation and new technologies, diversity and social change are pressing global issues in which cultural relations policy also has a part to play.

Secondly, cultural relations policy has a key role to play in how we examine and handle our colonial past. It will help shape our relations with many countries in the Global South.

And, thirdly, we want to think more in European terms in our cultural relations and education policy, not least in the context of common European foreign policy. With its unique model, Germany must play a defining role here.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It goes without saying that German foreign policy and the Federal Foreign Office will face up to all these tasks and challenges side by side with the Goethe-Institut and other intermediary organisations, just as we have done over the past decades.


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