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100th anniversary of the American Chamber of Commerce

Speech by Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder at a ceremony to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany Berlin: 

»Mr Irwin, Mr Quinkert, Excellency, Ladies and gentlemen,

It is not every day that a Federal Chancellor is asked to attend a 100th birthday celebration. And when the celebration is furthermore in honour of an institution which is successfully dedicated to cooperation between two countries and societies then the occasion is all the more special. I would therefore like to thank the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany for its work and wish it good fortune and every success for the future. At this ceremony I have however no wish to talk about things that you know far better than I do. Instead, I would like to take this opportunity to share with you a few thoughts on the character and future of Ger­man-American relations. I hope you will understand if, in doing so, I abide by an American election principle, which I have always found particularly appealing: “Never explain; never complain.” So, no justifications, no recriminations. I want to use our time now to look together to the future.

Germany and the United States of America are connected by a lively friendship. This friend­ship is built on the firm foundation of shared experience and common values. Both states are based on constitutions which, albeit in different ways, are rooted in the traditions of the Occi­dent and the European enlightenment. The key sentence of the American Declaration of Inde­pendence and Article 1 of our German Basic Law reflect this common background: the “truth” “that all men are created equal”, and that their “unalienable rights” include the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” finds its equivalent in the German provision that “Human dignity shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority.” The vital and unalterable parts of our constitutions concern the respect of basic and human rights as well as the guarantee that the power to govern can only ever be granted by the people for a limited duration. This means that state action must always be subject to the fundamental values and the democratic will of the people. On the basis of this conviction, our states have developed a multiplicity of institutions to guarantee the rights of the individual and participation by all in the life of the community. Our two countries are exemplary in their pursuit of this social model which combines individual, inalienable liberty on the one hand with, on the other, mechanisms of control and participation which comply with the rule of law. We both advocate the application around the world of this model of coexistence and governance. We believe that we must live by the principles of freedom and democracy to serve as an example to others, and that we should also develop a system of institutions based on the rule of law at international level. We are confident that our way of life will attract its followers. The two partners, Germany and the United States, have both repeatedly overcome the limitations of the classic nation state. Together we are committed to international legality and, in supra-national alliances such as the United Nations, pursue the goals of liberty, democracy and human rights, as well as free trade, shared wealth and sustainable develop­ment for all peoples. Together we have pledged to respond to terrorist threats and global risks. Controlled disarmament and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are key points of our canon of common values.

In accordance with these values and principles, the United States of America selflessly helped us restore our democracy after Germany took a series of wrong turns which culminated in the unprecedented barbarity of National Socialism. Nobody who, as I did, grew up during the post-war years, will ever forget the part the US played in our recovery. I am not just referring to the economic assistance from the Marshall Plan and the unique political guidance that helped us become self-confident democrats. That initially only benefited the western part of our divided nation. But without our democratic example, and without the United States as guarantor of freedom during the Cold War decades, Germany would never have been able to reassert its unity in freedom. And nobody welcomed and supported this unity as did our American friends. I would like to give special mention to the great services of George Bush, the US President of the time. I would however also like to go into this friendship’s “civil soci­ety” dimension, in the widest sense. This comprises not just an impressive number of con­tacts, exchange programmes and joint projects. It also consists of a shared sensibility and life­style – a sense of freedom, initiative, tolerance and optimism for the future. The realization of the significance of this shared sensibility led Jürgen Habermas, one of our most important philosophers, to state that there was “also culturally, no alternative” to the Federal Republic’s orientation to the West. And if the same erudite man now criticizes one specific American policy, it simply illustrates the strength of our shared cultural foundation of values: it includes the freedom to express differences of opinion and the strength to withstand them.

For all that we have in common, there are of course also differences which we should not be afraid to name if we want to further deepen our relations. Let me begin with the obvious: the United States is more or less exactly 26 times bigger than Germany. While America is incon­trovertibly the world’s remaining super power – some even call it the “hyper-power”, Ger­many is moulded by its position as a central power in Europe. America’s pioneering spirit, its people’s mobility, their belief in the feasibility of the most daring projects, quickly reaches the limits of acceptability in our country at the heart of the old world. And the bitter experience of so many armed conflicts on this continent has left a deep impression on our collective mem­ory: although the great majority of the Germans are far from being pacifists on principle, we have grown accustomed to showing the utmost restraint when considering the use of military force. Anyone who looks back at the past 150 years of German history cannot but welcome this development. I do for one. And I think the lasting consequence is that the German public will always demand hard facts before it will be convinced that force really has to be used as the last and inevitable means to resolve a conflict.

This by no way means that Germany is not prepared to assume at an international level responsibility. On the contrary, the development of German foreign policy in this context can be clearly illustrated with two dates – 9/11 and 11/9. These dates are marked with pictures of joy and jubilation, and images of unbound horror. On 9 November 1989, the Berlin wall was breached – by courageous people from East Germany who took it upon themselves to realize the promise of freedom. In this way the dictatorial regime in the GDR was brought to collapse, and the division of Germany overcome. One of the principal consequences was the restoration of full state sovereignty. Germany thus returned as an equal member of the com­munity of states, with all ensuing rights and duties. Germany’s participation in the peace­keeping operations in Bosnia, in ending the murder and ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and in preventing a civil war in Macedonia were the logical consequences, as well as politically necessary and welcomed choices. On 11 September 2001, the Germans and all freedom-loving people in the world watched the horrendous images of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington with a feeling of deep shock and profound sympathy. We did not hesi­tate to express Germany’s solidarity. I told the German Bundestag that in the fight against terrorism we could not hide behind on the restrictions imposed by the Cold War and our lim­ited sovereignty. To clarify the point, in November 2001 I staked my own political future on the commitment and willingness of my country to assume international responsibility. This commitment was not limited to “Enduring Freedom”. It will endure long after I have ceased to be Chancellor.

We are aware that the policy of our prime ally is deeply influenced by the terrible terrorist attacks of that 11 September. The close cooperation between our two countries in fighting international terrorism continues and has produced its first successes; but the war is far from won. German soldiers continue to work side by side with American troops in operation Enduring Freedom. Together with our allies we are helping to manage dangerous conflicts, with both military support and civilian contributions such as helping to build up police forces and granting development assistance. We are glad to say that the German contribution towards solving these problems that affect us all is recognized and valued.

Our history and geography mean that Germany’s international policy has to be first and fore­most a policy in Europe and for Europe. It is my firm conviction that this is also in the interest of German-American relations. Our work towards European integration and the enlargement of the European Union will not just benefit our continent. A stable Europe prospering in free­dom and democracy is a major factor for stabilizing nearby conflict regions. And such a Europe is an admirable example for gaining freedom, overcoming enmity and forging a new future. From the very birth of the European idea, it has been clear and remains so to this very day – that the close Franco-German friendship and cooperation are just as indispensable for Europe as is Europe’s transatlantic partnership. Nobody should try to force Germany to make the nonsensical choice between its friendship with France and its friendship with the US. I am sure that all those involved, and thus the whole world, would suffer the consequences. How­ever, Europe is also a permanent practice-ground for bigger partners dealing with smaller partners, a constant challenge to the political art of showing consideration whilst retaining the ability to make decisions. Together with France, we have therefore made proposals to the European Convention to ensure that the enlarged Europe retains the ability to act. One of these proposals is the creation of a European “foreign minister”. We all recall Henry Kissinger’s gibe that there was unfortunately no telephone number for Europe. We want to change this, and are doing so in the awareness that this step is also in the interest of the United States. I have also clearly stated that there is not “too much America” in our partnership, but “too little Europe”. The initiatives that Germany, France, Belgium and Luxembourg launched in Brussels on 29 April will in no way serve to disconnect Europe from the transatlantic alli­ance. They are rather designed to strengthen the alliance by making its European pillar more efficient and better able to act. Progress in the European Security and Defence Policy is in my opinion absolutely in the interest of the transatlantic partnership.

This partnership aims to benefit the people of Europe and the United States. But it must also contribute to making the world as a whole a freer and safer place – even more so now in the face of new, global risks. A policy which fights the roots of insecurity, rather than restricting itself to “security” in its police and military aspects, would to our mind be a policy worth pur­suing. We should define security as a comprehensive concept which includes social and mate­rial security just as it does the protection of nature and the environment, the security provided by human and minority rights and finally the protection of culture and identity. I firmly con­tradict all people, on both sides of the Atlantic, who predict the “end of NATO”. We do not need the “dismantling” of international alliances, but rather their further consolidation. It is certainly right to contemplate altering the division of labour as regards capabilities, too, for example by strengthening the European pillar. But in my eyes it is just as necessary to coop­erate in further developing our ideas of liberty, stability and security. In precisely this area there are, I believe, great skills at Europe’s disposal which it should bring into our alliances to complement the contributions of others.

In the past weeks there has been a somewhat strange debate on the question of a “unipolar world”. From the German point of view, I do not think this discussion will be very productive. Aren’t we all in agreement that in international politics we only want one “pole” to orient our­selves by, namely the pole of freedom, peace and justice? An aren’t we just as much in agreement on the fact that the actions of a state, as large and powerful as it may be, are not without consequence for the position of its friends and partners – and that for that simple rea­son, consultation is better than confrontation? Aren’t we thirdly in agreement that powers such as Russia and China, as well as upcoming regions such as South East Asia and highly unsta­ble areas such as the Middle East and Central Asia, must be tied into a common system of security and development through farsighted policies? In such a system, particularly in an alliance like our transatlantic partnership, each partner must contribute its best assets. You can in any case count on Germany’s contribution.

Last week the US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick called on us to use the excellent eco­nomic relations between our two countries to set the future course for our friendship. Before an audience like this I do not need to emphasize how very right he is. Our bilateral economic and trade relations are stable and good, but there is still scope for development, for example as regards American direct investment in Germany and the importance of the American mar­ket for German exports. I myself see a wide field for the development of our relations through closer social exchange and benchmarking that has not nearly been fully exploited. Whether with regard to education, research and training, the health sector or the rules for corporate governance, Germany and the United States have much to offer each other. We would be well advised to remember this. For together we would also have much to offer others. For the good of our peoples, but also to advance freedom, peace and development. Vital in this context is our common commitment to free world trade. In this, too, petty jealousies and apportioning of blame do not help anyone in the end. Sustainable energy supplies, free access to the world markets, especially for the poorer countries, and universal compliance with the rule of law are in the interest of all people. The weak, in particular, watch with special interest the initiatives taken to this end by the strong. And we must never forget that in comparison to those who still suffer hunger, poverty, injustice and under-development, our two peoples are exception­ally privileged. A good partnership and close German-American economic relations are, in combination with our common values and convictions, the best prerequisites for growth, prosperity and common security. I am certain that the American Chamber of Commerce will continue to make its contribution. In this vein, let me wish you every success for the next hundred years.«

Speech by Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder at a ceremony to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany Berlin; Friday, 9 May 2003; Translation

 

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