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Exzellenzen, meine Damen und Herren, liebe Gäste!
Meine Frau und ich begrüßen Sie sehr herzlich hier im Königlichen Museum für Kunst und Geschichte. Ein besonderer Dank gilt unserem diesjährigen Partner, dem Land Hessen.
Gemeinsam mit unseren Partnern und Freunden, gemeinsam mit Ihnen allen, erinnern wir uns heute an die friedlichen Demonstranten, die vor 30 Jahren im Osten Deutschlands für Demokratie, Freiheit und Rechtsstaatlichkeit auf die Straße gegangen sind. Sie waren nicht allein:
Over just a few months, millions of courageous people in the former GDR, in Poland, Hungary, the former CSSR and many other places laid the foundations for the reunification of Germany on the 3rd of October, 1990, and with it the end of the division of Europe.
Looking back at the time of the peaceful revolution tells us a compelling story about the centrality of freedom, democracy and rule of law to our European identity. These values are the bedrock on which the EU stands.
It is therefore right that the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council together watch over the preservation of these values across Member States. We need to further develop the rule of law procedure, both for it to become more effective and to help to heal existing divisions.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Europe today faces a multitude of challenges: the still unresolved question of Brexit poses an increasing burden on the United Kingdom – but also on the EU. Even with every preparatory measure in place, a no-deal exit would be enormously damaging; it would risk overshadowing future relations and thus further dividing the West. Avoiding no-deal is in our common interest – but unfortunately, only little time remains to find a solution which safeguards the Good Friday Agreement and protects the Single Market. The EU is willing to do this.
There has also been little progress in finding a European response to migration, not least because it is such an ideologically charged subject. We may no longer be facing a situation like that of 2015, but a large number of refugees and migrants continue to make their way to Europe. We will ultimately only succeed in finding a European solution if we can make progress both with regard to returning those not in need of protection, and to solidarity in receiving refugees.
The interior ministers’ meeting in Malta last week will hopefully provide the necessary impulse to relaunch the difficult discussions over the reform of the Common European Asylum System – whether this is on the basis of existing, or new, legislative proposals is up to the future Commission.
Discussions on the EU budget for 2021-27 have until now, unfortunately, also been treading water. But with a volume of over a trillion euros, the financial framework is the most important instrument for steering EU policy. It’s crucial that in our next budget, we concentrate on tackling new challenges like climate change and migration, and key future issues like digitalization. We are at risk of being left behind by the US and China.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
in the last few years, Europe has largely looked inwards. We were slow to realize that the world around us was changing. We live in an increasingly bipolar world, dominated by China and the USA. This presents Europe with an entirely new set of challenges.
How can Europe remain a relevant global actor in future? How can Europe bolster its capability for external action? And how can it strengthen its economic sovereignty?
For us to succeed, we must question old certainties and provide new answers.
We need, first of all, a new European industrial policy which allows us to catch up with the US and China in the industries of the future, such as artificial intelligence. I am very much counting on clever proposals from the new Commission.
Secondly, we need to look into our competition policy. It needs to better take into account that the global economic order is shifting, that state-run or state-supported companies from third countries are ever more important and that their competition is not always fair. A further aspect: are our existing protective instruments sufficiently sharp to counter unfair competition?
Thirdly, what can we do when other actors weaponize trade and currencies in pursuit of their foreign policy goals?
And finally, in this vein, how can we strengthen the international role of the Euro and reduce vulnerabilities?
These topics will dominate the agenda of the next Commission. There is plenty to do. Until now, Europe has always risen to its challenges. I am confident it will do so again.
In this, I am encouraged by remembering the peaceful revolution which took place 30 years ago: the reunification of Germany and of Europe is a historic mercy which nobody wishes to jeopardise. For we all know: only a democratic, just and economically prosperous Europe can safeguard the legacy of the revolution of 1989. Together, let us Europeans continue to work to that end. And together, let us raise our glass to it, too.
To Germany and Europe!