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Internal Policies and EU Institutions

Speech on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall

Berlin -
Sunday 08/11/2009
President Jerzy Buzek speaks at a ceremony in the German Bundestag on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the fall of Berlin Wall (Berlin, 08/11/2009)
President Jerzy Buzek speaks at a ceremony in the German Bundestag on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the fall of Berlin Wall (Berlin, 08/11/2009)

Dear President Lammert,
Dear Chancellor Merkel,
Dear President Böhrnsen,
Dear President Papier,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for inviting me. For me, personally, as a Pole and a Silesian born during the occupation, who spent most of his life in an enslaved homeland, being able to address the Bundestag and Bundesrat, is an incredible moment.

Just a few short steps from here, on Ebertstraße, white crosses stand in memory of those who did not wish to wait, or could not wait, for the Evil Empire to collapse. It is remembering their sacrifice and for those who live that for the past twenty years we have been rebuilding a Europe united again.

The European Union emerged fifty years ago on the basis of a historic reconciliation built by Adenauer and De Gaulle between France and Germany. The reconciliation of those two countries was in essence the reconciliation of all democratic Europe of that time. Without this understanding, the great project of integrating Western democracies would not have been possible. Its pinnacle was Helmut Kohl and François Mitterrand's hand shake in Verdun, a place symbolic for both nations.

Polish-German reconciliation took longer because the division of Europe lasted longer. The building blocks of that reconciliation were laid in 1965, when Polish Bishops said: 'we forgive, and ask for forgiveness'. Five years later Willy Brands kneeled in front of the Warsaw Ghetto memorial. It was completed when Prime Minister Mazowiecki and Chancellor Kohl met in November '89 in an already free Poland. Kohl and Mazowiecki chose a symbolic place. Silesian Krzyżowa (Kreisau), the home of Count von Moltke, a German who gave his life fighting Nazism.

After twenty years, in four days' time we will once again meet in Krzyżowa. The anniversary of this meeting and that of the Fall of the Berlin Wall are almost simultaneous It is the almost the same domino piece which overthrew an evil system.

It was then, in 1989 that we began a very important process: the building of a new European identity. This time for the benefit of us all, and not against any one, linking East and West. It was then that the founding myth of a new Europe was born! The Treaty of Lisbon which has now been ratified by all member states is another step on this road.

The European Union is a great success! Could over a hundred victims of the Berlin Wall dream that such a thing was possible? Could it have been foreseen by Herta Mueller, this year's Nobel Prize laureate for literature, who in her books describes her own experiences of a person enslaved by Communism? I am certain that this is what the one hundred thousand demonstrators dreamed of, who in November '89, on the streets of Leipzig called out:"Wir sind das Volk".

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have gathered here on the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was a wall of shame, a symbol of the division of not only the German nation, but also all of Europe, into free and enslaved.

Without tearing down this wall, East-West reconciliation, without Polish-German reconciliation, without the reunification of Germany, there would not have been a new reunification of Europe.

But we must go further. For us Europeans the East of our continent still remains crucial. If Europe wishes to speak with one voice to our Eastern partner, it has to learn to look at the East through the eyes of its historic neighbours. Through the eyes of the countries who recently joined the Union. Only then will our openness, as well as us reminding of democracy and human rights, will have a real value.

Remember that we cannot isolate ourselves with new walls from our immediate Eastern neighbours.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,

The fall of the Wall is also the symbol of the reunification of Germany. I know how important this anniversary is for the German nation and I celebrate it with you.

Let me here and now, honour all those people in many countries East of the Wall, who never accepted being enslaved. Let me also thank the thousands of western Europeans, who helped us in the East, from the other side of the Iron Curtain. They gave us the certainty that we are not alone.

People's dreams of freedom are stronger than concrete walls, stronger than murderous political doctrines. The people to the East of the Iron Curtain only had big hearts and great determination to face the tanks. But they won! They all were also present here in spirit twenty years ago when you were dismantling the wall. It started in front of the gate of a Gdansk shipyard and ended at the Brandenburg gate.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Twenty years ago the inhabitants of Berlin, of Germany, Europeans, by their own hands, bit by bit, laboriously dismantled the Berlin Wall. The politicians of that time created the conditions so that this great citizens passion transformed itself into the reintegration of your country in a reintegrated Europe.

Today our responsibility as European politicians is to follow the values on which the European Union grew out of: reconciliation and solidarity. Let us do everything not to forget these values. I am convinced that we can always count on the passion of our citizens. Let us match them with courage and determination.