Members of Parliament,
Ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to thank both Houses of Parliament most sincerely for allowing me to stand before you today. I am aware of the very great honour bestowed on me: I am the third representative of the Federal Republic of Germany, following Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt in 1970 and German Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker in 1986, to speak to you.
I regard this invitation as an expression of the close relations between our countries. Not only the governments but also the people of our two countries are linked by a close partnership.
I shall never forget my first visit to London in the spring of 1990, very soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall and quite a few months before Germany’s reunification. My husband had been invited here by fellow scientists and I entered the Royal Institution for the very first time in my life.
We walked through Hyde Park looking for Speakers’ Corner, which – especially for us as East Germans – was legendary, the very symbol of free speech. I hope that is not an insult to you, the members of the British Parliament.
Afterwards, we went to a concert in the Royal Albert Hall. We were in a country in which people were rejoicing with us Germans about the collapse of socialism in Central and Eastern Europe and the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was a terrific trip.
I have been told many times during the last few days that there are very special expectations of my speech here today. Supposedly, or so I have heard, some expect my speech to pave the way for a fundamental reform of the European architecture which will satisfy all kinds of alleged or actual British wishes. I am afraid they are in for a disappointment.
I have also heard that others are expecting the exact opposite and are hoping that I will deliver the clear and simple message here in London that the rest of Europe is not prepared to pay almost any price to keep Britain in the European Union. I am afraid these hopes will be dashed, too.
If what I have been told is true, then it will be obvious to everyone that I find myself caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. That, ladies and gentlemen, is not a pleasant position to be in – at least not for a German Head of Government.
Nevertheless, that cannot in any way spoil my pleasure at being here today.
On the contrary, my pleasure at being here is great because I simply want to share my thoughts with you: my thoughts about Europe, its promises and weaknesses, my thoughts on Germany and Britain in this Europe.
And I do so at a time in which many decisions will be made on how we as Germans, Britons, French or Poles, as Italians and all the other European nations and peoples can assert our values and interests in the world.
As, naturally, I can express my thoughts better in my native language, I hope you will forgive me for delivering the rest of my speech in German.
Ladies and gentlemen, today I am addressing you, the representatives of an institution which is the cradle of modern parliamentary democracy. This Parliament has made a key contribution to the development of the rule of law and democracy in Europe and the world.
As someone who lived for 35 years under the yoke of dictatorship in the GDR, denied my freedom, I have a special affinity with the unconditional desire for freedom and democracy which this Parliament and this country embody like few others. ……… click here to read on