Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased, and it is an honour for me to be able to speak to you here today.
In Berlin, where on November 9, 1989, the gate to the reunification of my fatherland Germany was opened wide, I was in the thick of it all night as a reporter for a radio station – headphones on and a microphone in my hand.
And that night I not only understood but emotionally experienced how much people in a forcibly separated country, even after 28 years, long to be able to live together again in a state and in freedom.
How many strangers lay in each other's arms on this unique night, how many tears were shed – finally free – finally on the way to the reunification of Germany.
On October 3, 1990, the time had come. And also there, in front of the Reichstag, I was there when our flag was raised, and more than a million people sang our common national anthem in the middle of a sea of flags: unity and justice and freedom... for the German Fatherland...
You will now think, “All’s well that ends well”
But no, unfortunately it's not like that. And all those who wish that their separate country – Korea – could at some point follow this path – which I and every other freedom-loving person in the world want – must know that such a path is not easy even after the restoration of state unity.
And – from my subjective point of view – our German way was probably even easier than will be the way of Korea
Why does a people want to be reunited at all after years of separation?
It is the common history
It is the families who can take each other back into their arms
It's the never-ending stories you can finally tell yourself
And when all this is done and people start building the future together, then it shows how difficult it all is.
What happened in the years of separation.
How foreign you have become to yourself.
How some even long for the past from the unfree part.
We are currently experiencing this in Germany
A two-hour flight from Berlin, Putin's Russia is waging a terrible war against the people of neighbouring Ukraine.
Tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians on both sides have died since February 24. Nobody counts the injured, the cripples.
And there are the raped women from Buhtscha.
And there are the completely destroyed cities like Mariupol – a single field of rubble with houses, hospitals and schools – destroyed by Russian missiles and bombs.
The photos from Mariupol are reminiscent of German cities in 1945 – Dresden, Cologne, Hamburg, and Berlin.
And it breaks my heart when I see so many East German compatriots on social networks today trying to justify this brutal barbarism.
Has the West made mistakes in dealing with Putin's Russia in the past – of course!
Is Ukraine a model democratic state? – Certainly not.
And only Ukraine has the right to decide whether it wants to join the European Union or NATO.
And we – the West – must not look away!
We must help the people of Ukraine who are desperately fighting for their lives – and yes, with the weapons they need to defend themselves!
None of us thought it possible that there could be another major war in Europe
Threats, blackmail – this has always been part of international politics.
But war? When that destroy – kill – rape. In Europe? In 2022?
If there is anything good at all that can be derived from a brutal war, it is that since February 24, 2022, the West has woken up.
Do you remember US President Donald Trump?
Ok, EVERYONE still remembers this president, who is unusual in every respect...
But Trump wanted to dissolve NATO three years ago!
And French President Emmanuel Macron spoke disparagingly about the most powerful military alliance on the planet.
NATO is stronger, self-confident and capable of acting than it has been for decades.
Despite heads of state playing their own game, such as Erdogan and Orban – for different reasons – the alliance stands firmly together.
Sweden and Finland are joining NATO – and these are armies that are already strong and operational.
Putin wanted to push NATO back from Russia's borders – now 1200 kilometres of direct border with the Western alliance is added...
The West – the EU and NATO – demonstrate strength and cohesion.
Not only militarily – but also with the sanctions that have already caused Russia to slump in its economic output by more than 10 percent.
And Germany has negligently made itself dependent on Russian gas in the past.
Yes, everything is getting more expensive, but our government is working hard to create alternatives so that we no longer need Russia in terms of energy supply.
Otherwise not anyway.
Our trade volume with Belgium is greater than that with Russia.
We – the West – must take the Ukraine crisis as an opportunity to build on our newfound strength
Germany and Europe in alliance with the United States and Canada.
And with our friends and partners in Southeast Asia:
With South Korea – with Japan – with Thailand – with Taiwan and also with Australia.
After 9/11 – and then after the great wave of refugees in 2015 of millions of Muslims – young men predominantly – many of us saw aggressive Islam as the biggest problem for our future.
In Europe, people thought: Russia is our friend. But that was a dramatic miscalculation.
Now we see that we are massively threatened by a ruler in the Kremlin who openly threatens and threatens with the use of nuclear missiles – also in Europe.
And while we think about Islam and Russia like this, we are all ignoring the big dragon in the room – and that is China.
A China that is stronger and more innovative than Russia can ever be.
A China determined to overtake the US as the World's No. 1 power.
A China that has only one interest: to expand its own power and strength.
I think China is our biggest problem for the future – the biggest challenge for the world's democracies.
And we should not wait until China has prevailed with its strategy. We should accept the challenge from Beijing and respond consistently. Together with all the states in the world that still know that freedom is something that must be defended every day anew against its enemy.
Thank you for your attention.