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Message from Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to mark the inauguration of the new chancery building at the German Embassy in Belgrade

23.04.2021 - Speech

At the heart – this phrase perhaps best describes this beautiful new Embassy building.

It lies at the heart of Belgrade – close to its young and dynamic centre.

And it’s also within walking distance of the President’s office, Parliament and the Government’s seat – and thus very, very close to the heart of your country’s political life.

Furthermore, this impressive and modern new building at the heart of Belgrade is also a symbol – and this is very important to us all – of the substance of our close partnership.

  • Germany is Serbia’s largest bilateral trading partner. German companies have invested more than 2.5 billion euro in Serbia, creating more than 70,000 jobs in the process.
  • What’s more, German development cooperation has been greatly intensified in Serbia: around 2 billion euro have been invested.
  • Many young Serbs learn German at our Goethe‑Institut in Belgrade, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. Many of these young people subsequently study in our country.
  • In particular, our relations benefit from the many people who live together – such as the 400,000 Serbs in Germany, who are very welcome there.

All of these are important ties which allow us to look into the future together and help us to gain a shared view of that future.

At the same time, however, we don’t forget to look back at the past:

Just a few days ago, 6 April, marked the 80th anniversary of the Luftwaffe attack by National Socialist Germany on Belgrade.

This lethal bombardment resulted in the deaths of thousands of people and destroyed large parts of your city.

And it was only the start of many further crimes which followed during the German occupation in the Second World War. After the rampage carried out by the National Socialists, Jewish life in Serbia was largely annihilated.

I guarantee you that we are very aware of these terrible crimes committed by us Germans on the territory of today’s Serbia. And that will always remain so. We will never forget them.

My Government has a special responsibility to preserve the memory of everything that happened back then and, above all, to remember the victims.

In my view, the answer to this dark chapter in German and European history was and remains European integration.

It brought peace and prosperity to western Europe after the Second World War. Never before has there been such a long period of peace in Europe. Before that, we killed each other for many centuries. And finally, that has ended.

I’m convinced that European integration can also help the countries of the Western Balkans in their efforts to secure peace and prosperity.

Germany therefore stands shoulder to shoulder with Serbia as it moves towards the European Union.

As a reliable partner – for we believe that the countries of the Western Balkans belong in the European Union.

But also a demanding partner – for steps towards integration require ambitious reforms and reconciliation in the region. And I’m pleased that we had such constructive talks on this both yesterday and today.

We’ll therefore continue to work to ensure that the enlargement process gains new momentum in the near future.

These efforts are symbolised not least by this new building – our new Embassy building. I’m delighted to be inaugurating our new chancery today – even under the conditions imposed by the pandemic. It’s truly sad that such events, which often offer an opportunity for very personal and informal talks, have become so rare. I very much hope that the current situation will end in the foreseeable future and that we can meet, speak and celebrate under normal conditions again.

And I’m certain, ladies and gentlemen, that we will overcome the pandemic and that this building, Mr Ambassador, will become the site of many more positive encounters:

At the heart of Belgrade, and at the heart of German‑Serbian relations.

Thank you very much.

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