Welcome to Berlin, Mr. Obama


Mr President, my friend Barack Obama,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I know that many of you have been waiting a long time. The sun doesn’t always shine but let me just put it like this: Barack Obama, we organized the best possible weather for you. Welcome to Berlin!

The Brandenburg Gate, this gate that was closed for decades and has been open again since 1989, is for our whole country, for this city and also for me personally the symbol of our freedom. Sixty years ago it formed one of the backdrops to the uprising in the GDR. On 17 June 1953, about a million people all across the GDR plucked up the courage to speak out. They were protesting against the authoritarian control and mismanagement of the state and calling for civil rights and democracy. They called, “We want to be free”. Their plea was silenced by the arrival of Soviet tanks. Yet the desire for freedom lived on. And this desire ultimately won through in the autumn of 1989 as the oppressive regimes of the Eastern bloc collapsed one after the other culminating in the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989. The images of the people rejoicing particularly here at the Brandenburg Gate were relayed around the world.

The end of the division and the subsequent unity of our country were made possible because many people in the GDR took to the streets in peaceful protest in the autumn of 1989 calling “We are the people. We are one people.” They were made possible because statesmen like Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl recognized the moment was historic. And they were made possible because at that defining moment we were able once more to rely on the strong partner and friend that maintained a close and lasting bond to Germany and Europe after the horrors of two world wars as an ardent champion of freedom: the United States of America. That is why it is such an honour and pleasure for me, standing here at this hugely symbolic place, at the Brandenburg Gate, to welcome the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama

Mr President, Barack Obama, the friendship, the support and the faithfulness that the United States showed for Germany are unique, they are firmly anchored in our hearts. We have not forgotten the Marshall Plan which in western Germany was synonymous with a unique economic success story. We have not forgotten the American and Allied pilots who, risking their own lives, brought supplies in the Berlin airlift in 1948 and 1949. We have not forgotten the commitment John F. Kennedy expressed to this city, almost exactly fifty years ago to the day. We have not forgotten Ronald Reagan’s appeal to Mikhail Gorbachev, Soviet Head of State and head of the communist party, issued just a few metres away to tear down the wall. We have not forgotten the support of George Bush the elder for the reunification of our country.

Yes, America played a huge role in ensuring that the Brandenburg Gate could change from a symbol of division to a symbol of unity and right and freedom. So it made absolute sense that crowds of people gathered here just a few days after the terrible attacks of 11 September to express their solidarity with America in its hour of need and mourning.

It is on this deep and unshakeable bond that we are also building our shared future. That is why we are continuing to develop the transatlantic friendship for the 21st century. Together we are seeking and finding answers to the global foreign and security policy questions. Together we are drawing the necessary conclusions from the devastating global financial crisis of 2008. With the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership we are together creating the world’s largest free trade area from which the global economy as a whole stands to benefit.

Only yesterday we met with the world’s other leading economic powers to focus on the challenges we all face. Yes, we want to lend shape to globalization – yet not any old way, but building on our foundation of shared values. For me, there can be no doubt: Also in the 21st century, the transatlantic partnership is the key to freedom, security and prosperity for all. Also in the 21st century, there can be no better partners than America and Europe.

Mr President, let me welcome you, Barack, to this city, welcome to the Brandenburg Gate. I welcome you among friends.