Marshall Center Joins Garmisch Partenkirchen in Day of German Unity Celebration

Shows a poster to advertise the ceremony

Marshall Center Joins Garmisch Partenkirchen in Day of German Unity Celebration

By Christine June
Public Affairs Office
George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies

Garmisch Partenkirchen, GERMANY (October 3, 2017) – George C. Marshall European Center German Deputy Director Brig. Gen. (ret.) Johann Berger and Garmisch Partenkirchen Mayor Dr. Sigrid Meierhofer marked the Day of German Unity in a ceremony held in the Garmisch Partenkirchen Kongresshaus, Oct. 3, 2016.

Berger and Meierhofer spoke in German and their remarks were translated by the George C. Marshall European Center.

Berger’s Remarks

Ladies and gentlemen,

The celebration of the 27th anniversary of German Unification takes place in an eventful year full of significant changes in the regional, global and security environment.

When we take a closer look at the events and developments that started in spring 2014 we realize the enormous impact and scope of those changes:

Crimea and Ukraine, Syria, the IS, terrorism in all European countries, political shifts in Turkey, but also in some European countries, the Brexit vote, the new U.S. administration, the conflict in Korea and the result of the federal election in Germany a week ago. 

In his editorial for the Frankfurter Allgemeine (26 September) Klaus-Dietrich Frankenberger describes the election result as a turning point in German history, the most drastic change since 1949 which shakes the very foundations of the Western alliance and the ties between eastern and western federal states.

So the new government -– still to be formed -– will face difficult tasks in the areas of foreign and security policy.

When we take a closer look at the domestic challenges ahead, the changes in our society, economy and social structures, we realize that the new government will have to solve a wide range of problems to prevent the fabric of our society from tearing apart. Mayor Meierhofer has already talked about this in detail.

So what is the situation today, 27 years after the German unification? Has Germany grown together? Have we overcome the “Ossi-Wessi” mentality and become one people? 

At a first glance we can say, yes, we have. Bavarians enjoy their holidays at the Baltic Sea resorts, in the region of the “1,000 lakes”, in the Spree Forest or the Erz Mountains as much as people from the new federal states like the Alps, Lake Constance or the Black Forest.

But 27 years after Germany’s unification, the East is still lagging behind in its economic development and is slow to catch up with the West. According to a report of the federal government which was debated a couple of days ago the economy of the Eastern federal states will not reach the level of the West any time soon.

In the meantime East Germany’s per capita gross domestic product amounts to 74% of that of the West, but there are still many obstacles to the complete elimination of the deficit accumulated over four decades of socialist economy in one part of the country.

We need to make sure that the divide between strong and weak regions will not become too deep. In some federal states the difference between booming regions and impoverished areas is larger than in France or Britain.

The impact of globalization and the demographic change could aggravate an already difficult situation and give rise to insecurity.

In many regions people feel forgotten and left behind, this leads to social divisions and provides fertile ground for radicalism.

Political apathy, downward social mobility and xenophobia seem inevitable and start undermining social cohesion, optimism and the basis of a free, tolerant and open-minded society of people ready to help those in need.

But we do need a stable society, and Europe needs a strong and stable Germany which, together with France and other neighboring countries, can become the core of a functioning, stable and resilient Europe.

The large number and complexity of the challenges facing us require concerted action at the European level. Therefore the stabilization and further development of a European Union that will not get stuck in excessive bureaucracy will be the main strategic interest of the new government’s foreign policy.

To achieve this goal, Germany’s political course has to be predictable, its structures reliable and its spirit confident. The state in the center of Europe needs a well- functioning society on a strong ethical basis which gives support to those that are weak and can be trusted to be willing and able to help those in need.

Both Germany and Europe need the transatlantic link and the support of our transatlantic partners to be able to defend their interests, their security and their stability in the face of the enormous challenges in today’s security environment. Europe on its own is not strong enough and does not have the appropriate means to address large-scale military threats effectively, so a purely European policy of prevention and deterrence would lack credibility.

5 June marked the 70 anniversary of the day when George C. Marshall, then U.S. state secretary, gave a speech about the initial draft of a Marshall Plan for Europe addressing the students of Harvard University.

Throughout the 70 years to follow the protection guaranteed by the United States of America under the NATO treaty has been vital for the reconstruction and development of Germany as well as for Europe’s freedom.

There are of course different interests and different opinions – not only in the U.S., but also in Europe.

Still, the shared values that have become the backbone of our democratic, free and open societies have enabled us to cope with problems and challenges, and will continue to do so if we adhere to them.

The visits of both the U.S. defense secretary and the German minister of defense at the Marshall Center on 28 June demonstrated, proved and confirmed the truth of this. They both emphasized that U.S.-German relations were built on a close dialog characterized by mutual trust.

Albert Schweitzer once said that if you really want something, you will find a way, if you don’t, you will find a reason.

So let us on this 27th anniversary of German Unification look for ways and not for reasons.

For a united Germany, for a functioning European Union, for a functioning and vibrant transatlantic cooperation and friendship.

Then we will be able to ensure that our children, grandchildren and their children will live in a world they love and that is worth living in, where those that are helpless will enjoy support, those without hope are given confidence, and the old and the weak will be treated with respect and maintain their dignity.

Now let me wish you all a peaceful and, thanks to the mountain infantry military band, enjoyable and pleasant day of German Unity.

Mayor Dr. Meierhofer and I would like to thank you for coming and for your attention.