Ladies and gentlemen,
Each year on the third of October, we celebrate the peaceful reunification of Germany in 1990. This year, we have another reason to celebrate: fifty years ago, on the eighteenth of September 1973, Germany was received into the United Nations – not as one German state but as two, the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany.
This had been preceded by a difficult process. When Germany was first divided after the Second World War, each of the two states considered itself alone to be the actual core German state. The early Federal Republic threatened to cut off diplomatic relations with any state that recognised the GDR.
It wasn’t until 1972 that the Federal Republic and the GDR agreed on “normal, good-neighbourly relations” based on equality. In so doing, both of them relinquished any claim to be the sole rightful representative of Germany as a whole vis-à-vis the rest of the world.
That was the only way – in combination with West Germany’s Eastern Treaties with the Soviet Union and Poland in particular – that they could both become full members of the United Nations.
As we celebrate the Day of German Unity today, we should remember how that very step was an important, possibly crucial prerequisite to the success of peaceful reunification. Both states were prepared to come to terms with reality; they chose not to threaten, never mind to use, violence, they accepted that their political systems were different, and thus they laid the foundations for dialogue and rapprochement.
Without that, reunification would not have been possible when the right historic moment arose, 17 years later, and the Democratic Republic acceded to the Federal Republic – peacefully, as a free decision by the people of East and West, with the approval of Germany’s neighbours and the victors of the Second World War. China, too, supported it.
As we celebrate the Day of German Unity today, it is not a day of victory, not a day of triumph over others. It’s a day of shared gratitude and joy.
On the third of October 1990, two seats in the UN became one. Since then, the reunified Germany has taken on ever-more responsibility within the United Nations; it is now the second-largest contributor to the entire UN system.
After all, the United Nations needs to remain able to function in the future. Germany is invested in a multilateral order rooted in international law and justice, peace and security, freedom and human rights, sustainability and development. We support reforming the UN system and the Security Council so that all regions and states of the world are adequately represented within them.
The key principles of the UN Charter have lost none of their significance: the prohibition of violence, the protection of territorial integrity, the principle of peaceful conflict resolution – and part of what that means is that the status quo can only be changed peacefully and by mutual consent. No state may force its will on others. The strength of the law must prevail, not the law of the strong.
The permanent members of the UN Security Council bear special responsibility on that score. We will therefore not stop condemning Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council, for its brutal war of aggression against Ukraine. It is a frontal assault on the principles of the UN Charter and on world peace.
The United Nations remains the best forum for all states to meet as equals and find ways of cooperating with one another. Only together can the international community tackle the great global challenges of our time effectively.
We want to play our part in that through our future collaboration with China – as the German Government emphasises in its first Strategy on China, which was adopted this summer.
Yes, risk reduction, greater resilience and more self-reliance are necessary in difficult times, but threats like the climate crisis can only be overcome by joint action. That will take cooperation for sustainable growth, green energy supplies, innovation through science and research, worldwide use of green technologies – in short, implementation of the Paris Accords and the Sustainable Development Goals for the good of all.
My vision would be “green-coupling” rather than “decoupling”.
I would love us, today, to celebrate not only Germany’s unity and not only Germany’s accession to the United Nations – but also the very idea of the United Nations itself: the idea of a peaceful and fairer world.
I hope you all enjoy a very pleasant evening.