-- check against delivery --
Ladies and gentlemen,
There is an African proverb which says “Anyone who plants a tree knowing that he will never sit in its shade has at least begun to grasp the meaning of life.” In planting this tree today, you are creating a living link between the two cities. And I hope that many people in Skopje will enjoy the tree and take advantage of the shade it offers.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drawn up in 1948 after the catastrophe that was the Second World War and as a consequence of the terrible crimes committed under National Socialism. Nuremberg took on particular significance during the Nazi regime. The city’s name is bound up with the Nazi party rallies and the anti Semitic and racist race laws. Today, Nuremberg derives from this a responsibility to ensure that nothing like that happens ever again.
Nuremberg works in many different ways to support human rights and the dignity of every individual, regardless of origin, ethnicity, faith or sexual orientation.
The idea of planting trees throughout Nuremberg and in its partner cities, as we are doing here today in Skopje, to give the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights firm roots, is a wonderful project.
The tree we are planting here today is dedicated to Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.” The right to a fair hearing in any legal proceeding is one of the fundamental elements of a functioning state based on the rule of law.
Skopje chose this article for the plaque alongside its tree. And it is my view, Mr Mayor, that you made a particularly good choice. For a lot has happened in your country over the past few months. Important reforms have been launched. The European Commission has recommended that accession negotiations be started. However, much remains to be done. The citizens must see the benefits of the reforms in their day to day lives. There can be no prosperous future for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia without an independent judiciary and a functioning rule of law system.
Today we are planting a ginkgo tree. The ginkgo tree is known for its robustness. It is said that a ginkgo tree was already growing again in Hiroshima just a year after the atomic bomb fell. If life can blossom again so soon after complete destruction, then this gives us hope. At the same time, the ginkgo is very resilient in the face of extreme environmental conditions and so exemplifies the courage and stamina needed to realise human rights.
Because even now, 70 years on from the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, much remains to be done. In many countries of the world, human rights are being disregarded and the scope for human rights defenders and for civil society as a whole is being restricted more and more. And for that very reason it is important that we are working together for human rights. The people of Nuremberg and the people of Skopje are making an active contribution. For that I thank you most sincerely.
I wish this tree long life as a symbol of friendship and peace in a united Europe.