Chancellor Merkel praised the achievements since the reunification on the Day of German Unity. However, Merkel stressed that the German Unification was not yet complete and that freedom always had to come with responsibility.
With an appeal against intolerance, exclusion, and hatred, Chancellor Angela Merkel called on all German citizens to complete reunification. At the ceremony for the Day of German Unity in Kiel, she promoted open and controversial debates, but at the same time called for compliance with the “rules of the game” of the Basic Law (German constitution).
As citizens in a democracy, Merkel stressed that everyone had an obligation to ensure freedom and the rule of law time and again, which included “that no one who assumes public responsibility should have to fear for their life”.
“For a living democracy, openness is necessary”, the Chancellor continued. If, however, the “big questions of the time are only discussed in a bubble or echo chamber” and in addition “so-called subjective truths get the upper hand over the actual facts, then this will be to the detriment of all of us”, Merkel warned.
“As citizens in democracy, we all have an obligation,” stressed the Chancellor. “Freedom always goes hand in hand with responsibility”.
Merkel promotes a better understanding between West and East
Merkel still sees deficits in the cohesion between East and West. She said that the unity of Germany was complete but not that of its citizens. German unity remains an ongoing process and a constant task. She therefore promoted more mutual understanding.
“All Germans today are more satisfied with their lives as a whole than at any other time since unification,” Merkel said. However, she added, the fact that the majority of East Germans in the Federal Republic felt they were second-class citizens was also part of the balance after 29 years of reunification.
Drawing an analogy to the political climate in the GDR, the Chancellor warned against primarily looking for “the cause of difficulties and adversities in the state and the so-called elites whom one cannot believe anyway and who are somehow working against the individual”. Such thinking could be observed throughout Germany and if it were to prevail, it would lead to misery.
Merkel also stressed that no country alone could cope with the challenges of the future. That was why “more than ever we have to think and act multilaterally instead of unilaterally”, “globally instead of nationally, cosmopolitan instead of isolationist, together instead of alone”, the Chancellor appealed.
Günther: East German hardship not sufficiently appreciated
In his speech, the Bundesrat* President Daniel Günther (CDU) also expressed his desire for “more room for the East German aspects of our German history” and more sensitivity and understanding on the West German side. “The East Germans had a much harder time after the Second World War”. At the beginning of the ceremony, the Prime Minister of Schleswig-Holstein said that their biographies and hardships in two successive dictatorships had often not been sufficiently taken into account since the fall of communism.
The central celebration began with an ecumenical service in St. Nikolai’s Church, attended by Günther and Merkel, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble and the President of the Federal Constitutional Court, Andreas Voßkuhle.
Seehofer: Equal living conditions within ten years
In the run-up to the celebrations, Wolfang Schäuble had commented that in 1990, certainly not everything had been done right. In the situation at that time, however, there had been no alternative. According to Schäuble, most East Germans wanted to join quickly. Schäuble described the unification treaty, which he co-authored almost 30 years ago, as “the best form in which we could achieve unification”. He further added that he could understand how East Germans sometimes felt disadvantaged and that creating similar economic conditions in East and West Germany would “take longer than we thought at the time”. But something was happening.
Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) expressed his confidence that the structural differences between East and West would be eliminated: “We expect to have equal living conditions throughout Germany within a decade. This applies not only to the new federal states, but also to structurally weak regions in other parts of Germany,” the newspaper Bild am Sonntag quoted.
On 3 October 1990, after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of the GDR, the newly founded East German Länder joined the Federal Republic of Germany. The holiday of 3 October was part of the Unification Treaty. Schleswig-Holstein presided over the Bundesrat this year and therefore hosted the unity celebrations in Kiel.
*The Bundesrat (“Federal Council”) is the Upper Chamber in the German parliamentary system.