“The need for communication (...) is a humanistic, political and cultural challenge today.”
These words were said by then Federal President Roman Herzog to the German‑Russian Forum at the first Potsdam Encounters almost 25 years ago.
And one must now add that the greater the challenges, the greater the need for communication.
After all, this is a grave time in German‑Russian relations ‒ graver that at any other time in the past 30 years.
You are all aware of the political conflicts:
of how Moscow treats the opposition and civil society
of Russian secret‑service operations in Germany and Europe
and of the military threats we have experienced in recent weeks on the Ukrainian border.
However, none of these problems will be solved by silence. Solutions can only be found by talking with one another and never losing sight of what unites us, despite all our differences.
That is what the Potsdam Encounters stand for. This is no fair‑weather event, but rather a bridge, especially in turbulent times.
We know that not talking leads to a risk of alienation. That is not what we want. A lack of communication reinforces prejudices and distorted images, with which we are unfortunately all too familiar in German‑Russian Relations.
We need to remember this, 80 years after Germany invaded the Soviet Union, bringing untold suffering to our neighbours.
So let us guard against simplification!
Russia has a vibrant and active civil society, which longs for more freedoms and more intensive exchange.
Those who designate Germany or the West as a whole as “enemies of Russia” destroy our prospects for a common future.
And yet the list of common challenges is long, ranging from energy‑policy transformation to renewables, and from environmental and climate protection and digital transformation to the joint fight against the COVID‑19 pandemic and its impact.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are willing to work together.
We lay the foundation for doing so through communication, as we are doing today, at this 25th edition of the Potsdam Encounters.