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President Roman Herzog Calls for a Renewal of Confidence (April 26, 1997)

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But it is not yet too late. Germany needs a jolt. We must give up cherished entitlements. Everyone is involved, everyone must make sacrifices, everyone has a role to play. This includes:

- management, which must cut costs not only by laying off workers;

- workers, who must bring working hours and wages in line with what their companies can afford;

- unions, which must endorse local contracts and more flexible working relationships;

- the Parliament, both the Bundestag and Bundesrat, which must make rapid progress on major reforms; and

- special interest groups, which must not work against the common good.

People expect action now. If everybody sees the tasks before us as a great common challenge, we shall succeed. In the end, we shall all benefit.

There is no question that we have difficult years ahead. But we also have enormous opportunities. We have one of the best infrastructures in the world and a well-educated population. We have know-how, we have capital, we have a huge market. By international standards, we still have an almost unparalleled degree of social security, freedom, and justice. Other countries have taken our legal system and our social market economy as an example, the “German model.” And above all, everywhere in the world – everywhere, that is, except here – people are convinced that the Germans will make it.

[ . . . ]

I am convinced that we can recapture a leading position in science and technology, and in opening up new markets. We can trigger new growth, which will create new jobs.

The result will be a society that is making a comeback, one full of confidence and joie de vivre, a society of tolerance and personal commitment. If we cast off our shackles, if we realize our full potential, then we shall not merely reduce unemployment by half, we can even restore full employment. In America, and elsewhere, it happened long ago – so why shouldn’t it happen here?

Now we must get to work. I call upon all our citizens to assume greater personal responsibility. I am counting on a renewal of spirit. And I trust in our creative power. Let us believe in ourselves again. Our best years are yet to come.

Source of English translation: Roman Herzog, “Germany’s Future: Moving into the 21st Century” in Roman Herzog: Lessons from the Past, Visions for the Future, with an introduction by Steven Muller. German Issues, 18. American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, Johns Hopkins University, pp. 85-98. Reproduced with minor edits by the GHDI staff.

Source of original German speech: “Berliner Rede des Bundespräsidenten Herzog – Aufbruch ins 21. Jahrhundert,” Bulletin [Presse- und Informationsamt der Bundesregierung] Nr. 33, 30. April 1997.

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