Angela D Merkel

Remarks to a Joint Session of the U.S. Congress - November 3, 2009

Angela D Merkel
November 03, 2009— Washington, D.C.
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Merkel was only the second German chancellor to address the full U.S. Congress and the first in over 50 years.

Madam Speaker, Mr. Vice President, distinguished Members of Congress:

Thank you for the great honor and privilege to address you today, shortly before the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I am the second German Chancellor on whom this great honor is bestowed. Konrad Adenauer was the first when, in 1957, he addressed both Houses of Congress, albeit one after the other.

Our lives could not have been more different. In 1957, I was a small child of 3 years. I lived in Brandenburg together with my parents, a region that at the time belonged to the German Democratic Republic, the part of Germany that was not free. My father worked as a Protestant pastor. My mother, who had studied English and Latin to become a teacher, was not allowed to work in her chosen profession in the GDR. In 1957, Konrad Adenauer was already 81 years old. He had witnessed the German Empire, the first World War, the Weimar Republic and the Second World War. The National Socialists ousted him from his office as Lord Mayor of the city of Cologne. After the war, he was one of the men and women who built the free and democratic Federal Republic of Germany. There is nothing more symbolic of this Federal Republic of Germany than its constitution, the basic law, the grundgesetz. It was adopted exactly 60 years ago.

Article 1 of the basic law reads as follows, "The dignity of man is inviolable.'' This short and simple sentence--"the dignity of man is inviolable''--was the response to the catastrophe of the Second World War, to the murder of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust, to the hatred, destruction and annihilation that Germany brought over Germany and the rest of the world.

In only a few days will mark the 9th of November. On the 9th of November, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. The 9th of November, 1938, however, also left an indelible mark on German and European history. On this day, the National Socialists pillaged and destroyed synagogues, set fire to them and killed innumerable people. It was the beginning of what later turned into the break with civilization that was the Shoah. I cannot stand before you today without remembering the victims of that very day and of the Shoah.

There is one guest in the audience today who personally experienced the horrors of Germany under National Socialism and whom I got to know personally some time ago--Professor Fritz Stern. He was born in Breslau in 1926--then a German city, today a Polish city--and in 1938, he was able to flee with his family from the Nazis at the very last minute. In his autobiography, published in 2006 under the title "Five Germanys I Have Known'' Fritz Stern recounts the moment he arrived in New York Harbor in 1938, reaching a haven of freedom and security.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is wonderful that history willed that Fritz Stern, then a 12-year-old boy driven out of his native Germany, and myself, originally born in the GDR, now Chancellor of today's reunited Germany, meet here today before this august assembly under the same roof. This fills me with great pride and great gratitude.

In my wildest dreams, I would not have thought this possible 20 years ago, before the fall of the wall, for at the time it was beyond my imagination to ever even travel to the United States, let alone stand here before you one day. The land of unlimited opportunity was, for me for a long time, impossible to reach. The wall, barbed wire and the order to shoot at those who tried to leave limited my access to the free world. Therefore, I had to rely on films and books, some of which were smuggled by relatives from the West to gain an impression of the United States. What did I see, and what did I read? What was it I was passionate about? I was passionate about the American Dream, the possibility for each and every one to be successful, to actually make it in life through one's own personal effort. And like many other teenagers, I was passionate about jeans of a particular brand that you could not get in the GDR, which my aunt kindly sent me regularly from the West. I was passionate about the vast American landscapes that seemed to breathe the very spirit of freedom and independence. And immediately in 1990, my husband and I flew to America for the first time, to California. We shall never forget our first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. It was simply gorgeous. And this, even though for me, America seemed completely out of reach until 1989.Then on the 9th of November, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, and this border, which had divided a nation for decades, keeping people in two different worlds, was now open. This is why, for me, today is, first and foremost, a time to say thank you. I thank all those American and Allied pilots who heard and heeded the desperate appeal of then-mayor of Berlin, Ernst Reuter, in 1948 who said, "You, the nations of this world, cast your eyes towards the city.'' For months, these pilots flew to Berlin for the airlift, saving the citizens from starvation. Many of these soldiers risked their lives; dozens lost their lives. We shall remember and honor them forever.

I thank the 16 million Americans stationed in Germany throughout the last decades, without whose support as soldiers, diplomats and generally as facilitators, overcoming the division of Europe would simply not have been possible. Also, we would be more than pleased, not only today but also in the future, to have American soldiers in Germany. You are ambassadors of your country to Germany, just as many Americans with German roots continue to be ambassadors of my country over here in the United States of America.

I think of John F. Kennedy who won the hearts of the Berliners when, during his visit in 1961 after the wall had been built, he reached out to the desperate citizens of Berlin by saying, "Ich bin ein Berliner.'' I think of Ronald Reagan who, far earlier than most, clearly saw the sign of the times and, standing in front of the Brandenburg Gate already in 1987, called out, "Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.'' This appeal shall remain forever in my heart.

I thank George Herbert Walker Bush for the trust he placed in Germany and then Chancellor Helmut Kohl, offering something of immeasurable value to us Germans already in May 1989: "Partnership in leadership.'' What a generous offer, 40 years after the end of the Second World War. It was actually only last Saturday that we met again in Berlin, incidentally together with Mikhail Gorbachev. And to him, too, we owe a debt of gratitude.

Ladies and gentlemen, to put it in just one sentence, I know--we Germans know how much we owe to you, our American friends, and we shall never--I, personally--shall never, ever forget this.

The common quest for freedom released incredible forces all over Europe: the trade union Solidarnosc in Poland, the reformers around Vaclav Havel in Czechoslovakia, the first opening of the Iron Curtain in Hungary, and the demonstrations in the GDR every Monday. Where there used to be a dark wall, a door suddenly opened, and we all walked through it out into the streets, into the churches, across borders. Each and every one was suddenly given a chance to build something new, to help shape things, to dare a new beginning.

I, too, saw a new beginning. I left my work as a physicist in the Academy of Science in East Berlin behind me and went into politics because I was finally able to do something to make a difference because I had gained the impression, Now things can be changed. Now you can do something. Ladies and gentlemen, 20 years have gone by since we were given this incredible gift of freedom, but still, nothing keeps me more involved, nothing spurs me on as much, nothing fills me with stronger positive feelings than the force of freedom.

Whoever has been so positively surprised in his or her lifetime holds many things to be possible. Or, to borrow the words of Bill Clinton when he was in Berlin in 1994, "Nothing will stop us. All things are possible.'' Yes, everything is possible. It is possible for a woman like myself to be here today. It is possible for a man like Arnold Vaatz, a dissident in Dresden during GDR times who spent time in prison because of this, to be here present today, a Member of the German Bundestag, the German Parliament and a member of my delegation. Yes, everything is possible. Also in our century, the 21st century, the age of globalization.

Back home in Germany, just as here in America, many people are afraid of globalization. We don't simply pass over this fact and these fears. We do see the difficulties. And yet it is up to us to convince people that globalization is the great global opportunity for each and every continent, for it forces all of us to work together with others. The alternative to globalization would mean shutting ourselves off against others. But instead of being a viable alternative, this would only lead into isolation and misery. Thinking in terms of alliances, thinking in terms of partnerships, however, this will take us into a good future.

Ladies and gentlemen, America and Europe have certainly had their share of disagreements. Some may sometimes consider the other to be too hesitant or too fearful or, from the opposite perspective, too headstrong and too pushy. And yet I am deeply convinced that Europe will not find a better partner than America, nor will America find a better partner than Europe. For what brings Europeans and Americans together and keeps them together is not only a common history, what brings Europeans and Americans together and keeps them there are not only shared interests but common global challenges which exist among all regions of the world. This alone would not be sufficient to forge this very special partnership between Europe and America and to make it last. There is more to it. What brings Europeans and Americans together and keeps them close is a common basis of shared values. It is a common idea of the individual, and its inalienable dignity. It is a common understanding of freedom and responsibility. This is what we stand up for in this unique trans-Atlantic partnership and in this community of shared values that is NATO.

Thus, partnership and leadership is filled with life, ladies and gentlemen. It was this basis of values that ended the Cold War, and it is this basis of values which enables us now to stand the test of our times, and we need to stand this test of our time. Germany is united. Europe is united. That is something that we've been able to do.

Now today's generation needs to prove that it is able to meet the challenges of the 21st century and that, in a sense, we are able to tear down walls of today. What does this mean? Well, it means create freedom and security. It means create prosperity and justice, and it means protecting our planet. And here again, America and Europe are called upon in a very special way to do that, even after the end of the Cold War. Therefore, what is important is to see to it that we tear down walls in the minds of people, walls that separate different concepts of life that make it difficult time and again for us to understand each other all over the world. This is why the ability to show tolerance towards others is so important.

For us, our way of life is the best possible way, but others do not necessarily feel that way or think that way. There are different solutions to create a peaceful coexistence and tolerance; and showing tolerance means showing respect for the history, the tradition, the religion and the cultural identity of others. But let there be no misunderstanding; tolerance does not mean anything goes. There must be zero tolerance towards all those who show no respect for the inalienable rights of the individual and who violate human rights, and zero tolerance needs to be shown when there is a risk of weapons of mass destruction falling, for example, into the hands of Iran and threatening our security.

Iran needs to be aware of this. Iran knows our offer, but Iran also knows where we draw a line. A nuclear bomb in the hands of an Iranian president who denies the Holocaust, threatens Israel and denies Israel the right to exist is not acceptable. The security of the State of Israel is for me nonnegotiable, now and forever. Incidentally, not only Israel is threatened but the whole of the free world. Whoever threatens Israel also threatens us. This is where the free world meets this threat head-on; if necessary, through tough economic sanctions. And this is why we, in Germany, will do everything we can in order to lend our support to the Middle East peace process, with the aim of establishing a two-state solution, a Jewish State of Israel and a Palestinian state living peacefully side by side.

We also stand up against the threat of international terrorism. We are aware of the fact that no country, no matter how strong, can do this alone. We all need partners. We are only strong if we are joined by others in a community of partners. Since we share then-President George W. Bush's views after the attacks of 9/11 that we had to prevent Afghanistan from ever harboring such a threat to the world again, Germany has been present there on the ground since 2002, with the third-largest troop contingent. We want to make the concept of an integrated or networked security successful. This means that civil and military commitment are inextricably linked.

The international community's mission in Afghanistan is, without any doubt, a tough one. It demands a lot from all of us, and it now needs to be transferred to the next phase as soon as the new Afghan Government is in office. Our objective must be a strategy for transfer of responsibility which we intend to develop together during a joint U.N. conference at the beginning of next year. We will be successful if we, as we have done up to now, continue to travel this road together every step of the way. Germany stands ready to shoulder its responsibility.

There is no doubt that NATO is and remains the crucial cornerstone of our common security. The security concept is continuously further developed and adapted to meet the challenges of the day, but its foundation and its clear compass for peace and freedom remain unchanged. We Europeans, I am convinced, may contribute even more in the future, for we Europeans are currently working on giving a new contractual basis to our European Union. The last signature has just been put on this document. This will make the European Union stronger and more capable of action, thereby turning it into a strong and reliable partner for the United States. We can build stable partnerships on this sound basis, first and foremost, with Russia, China and India. For, ladies and gentlemen, the world we live in today is both freer and more integrated than ever before.

The fall of the Berlin Wall, the technological revolution and information and communication technology, and the rise of China, India, and other countries to become dynamic economies, all of this has changed the world of the 21st century into something completely different from what we knew in the 20th century. This is a good thing, for freedom is the very essence of our economy and our society. Man can only be creative when he's free, but what is also clear is that freedom does not stand alone. It is the freedom in responsibility and freedom to show and shoulder responsibility. For this, the world needs an underlying order. The near collapse of the international financial markets has shown what happens when there is none, when there is no underpinning order. If there is one lesson the world has learned from the financial crisis of last year, it is that a globalized economy needs a global order and a global framework of rules. Without global rules on transparency and supervision, we will not gain more freedom but rather risk the abuse of freedom and, thus, risk instability.

In a way, this is a second wall that needs to fall, a wall standing in the way of a truly global economic order, a wall made up of regional and exclusively national thinking. The G-20 is key to this cooperation among the most important industrialized countries and emerging economies. Here, too, cooperation between the Americans and the Europeans is a crucial cornerstone. It is not an exclusive but an inclusive cooperation. The G-20 have shown that they are capable of action, and we need to resist the pressure of those who almost led the nations of this planet to the abyss. The long and short of it is that international economic policy needs to be more sustainable because this crisis was also the result of a way of thinking that was too short term. As a consequence, millions of people all over the world may lose their jobs and are threatened by poverty and hunger.

To achieve prosperity and justice, we have to do everything to prevent such a crisis in the future. This also means not giving in to the temptation of protectionism. This is why the Doha negotiations and the framework of WTO are so important. The success of the Doha Round would send a very important message of openness for global trade, particularly in the current crisis. And just as much, the Transatlantic Economic Council can fulfill an important task in preventing the race for subsidies and giving incentives to reduce barriers to trade between Europe and America. Please, do let us jointly work for a global economic order that is in the interest of both America and Europe.

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