Statement by Foreign Minister Maas prior to his trip to Prague
Before his departure for Prague (30 September), Foreign Minister Maas issued the following statement:
Freedom and a better future – that is what thousands of GDR citizens were longing for when they sought refuge in our Embassy in Prague in autumn 1989. Just before 7 p.m. on 30 September 1989, Foreign Minister Genscher made the announcement from the Embassy balcony which brought them such joy and relief: their departure had been authorised. His words were drowned out by the cheering crowd. I am delighted to be travelling to Prague exactly 30 years after this remarkable evening. The people in the Embassy had left everything behind and staked their future on this one outcome: being granted permission to leave for the West. To step into freedom. When they said good-bye and left home, they thought it was for ever. They did not know where their journey would end. They only knew that there was no return. This was a crossroads one only experiences once in a lifetime. These people were courageous. And all of us living in united Germany today owe so much to them.
My trip also provides an opportunity to thank the Czech people. The solidarity with the Embassy refugees shown by many citizens of Prague was a key factor. It was one of the finest hour, not only of intra-German but also German-Czechoslovakian relations, indeed of Europe.
There is also much to discuss concerning our bilateral relations with the Czech Republic. I am therefore looking forward to meeting my colleagues. Today we, Czechs and Germans, enjoy exceedingly close ties: thanks to our shared values, our EU membership and our economic relations. Back then, in 1989, not even the most optimistic of optimists would have believed that possible.