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Focus on German Unification (January 30, 1991)

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With the reclamation of full sovereignty, we Germans gained not only greater freedom of action but also greater responsibility. This is also how our partners throughout the world see it. They expect that a united Germany will do justice to its new role. We are not talking about taking national unilateral action or, worse, exhibiting power ambitions; for there is only one place in the world for us: the community of free nations. Now more than ever before, we need reason and insight, and above all we need to hold fast to the goals we have set for ourselves. We all know that we are at the beginning of a long and also arduous path: we want to bring Germany together – in every respect, intellectually and culturally, economically, and socially. We want to participate in building a just and lasting peaceful order in Europe, one that will bring all the peoples of our long-divided continent together in common freedom. We want to cooperate in establishing an order of world peace based on the rule of law: on respect for human rights and the right of all people to self-determination, as well as on the common will to preserve the creation entrusted to humanity.

We are grateful that since October 3, 1990, we Germans have been able to proceed on this path into the future together. As everyone can see, it proved very advantageous that the political unification of Germany was able to be completed before the present conflicts came to a head. The tasks ahead of us are difficult, and we can all understand the concerns of the people in the new federal states: concerns about their jobs, the future, but also about the dire state of the environment. Economic, social, and ecological issues are now urgent, but they are certainly not the only ones we need to tackle. It will take a long time to rectify the immaterial damage caused by the era of the SED dictatorship. I am thinking especially of the profound effects that more than four decades of Communist dictatorship had on the minds and also on the souls of the people. To achieve the unity and freedom of Germany in free self-determination: this mandate from our Basic Law of 1949 has now been attained as defined under constitutional law. Now it is a matter of shaping this unity. Our goal is clear: we want to create the same life opportunities for all of the people of Germany.

At the same time, ladies and gentlemen, we must use all our might to tackle the second major task to which the Basic Law commits us: the achievement of a united Europe, that is, the achievement of the political unification of Europe. Our constitution instructs us β€œto serve world peace as an equal partner in a united Europe.” And indeed we best serve world peace by advancing the political integration of Europe with determination and resolve. Neither a united Germany nor a Europe that is constantly growing closer together can afford to remain indifferent to the mounting problems in other regions of the world.

All of these problems affect us directly. By contributing to a joint solution we are not only satisfying a moral obligation but also acting in our own enlightened self-interest. Europe is now growing together on a foundation of values shaped by Christianity and the Enlightenment. But self-righteous Eurocentrism by those of us in the West is less justifiable than ever before. In recent days and weeks, it has become clearer than ever before that our fate is closely tied to developments in our neighborhood – in the Eastern part of our continent as well as in the Near and Middle East. Ladies and gentlemen, Germany and Europe will thrive only if they do not isolate themselves culturally and economically, only if they remain willing to learn from others and, above all, only if they do not shy away from peaceful competition. If nothing else, national selfishness at a time like this would be a sign of gross ingratitude toward those partners and friends who protected our freedom for decades and who, above all, actively aided us in the unification of our country. Here, I would like to make special mention of the United States of America, France, and Great Britain.

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