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Stand: 23.05.2002
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Opening statement by Wolfgang Thierse, MdB, President of the German Bundestag, on the occasion of the address by George W. Bush, President of the United States of America, to the German Bundestag on 23 May, 2002

Embargoed until: 23.05.2002, 14 Uhr
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Federal President,
Federal Chancellor,
President of the Bundesrat,
President of the Federal Constitutional Court,
Honourable colleagues from the German Bundestag and the Bundesrat,
Ladies and gentlemen:

On behalf of all of you, I welcome the President of the United States, George W. Bush, his wife Laura and the American delegation most warmly to the German Bundestag. Your visit falls on a special date. 53 years ago today, the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany came into force. Our constitution was the response of democrats to the inhumanity of the National Socialist dictatorship. But the return to democracy did not come about without outside help. The United States of America played a crucial role in liberating our country from fascism and supporting it on its path to democracy. Throughout Germany, and especially here in Berlin, people have not forgotten: America stood by our side through the difficult post-war years and the decades of the Cold War, which we Germans, in our divided country, experienced on different sides – we had little choice in the matter. Following the success of the peaceful revolution in East Germany, one of the staunchest supporters of German unity was the President of the United States, George Bush – your father, Mr President.

All of this has engendered deep and enduring bonds between our peoples. Your visit, Mr President, is yet another expression of this solidarity. We Germans were again reminded of this particularly sharply on 11 September 2001. We, too, were deeply affected and disturbed by the terrorist mass murder attacks on New York and Washington – because they were directed at our allies, and also because at the same time we felt that this cowardly attack was an assault on the fundamental values we share.

But we can give this date a different meaning from the one intended by the terrorists driven by hatred. For this day also marks the beginning of a kind of international cooperation that previously seemed utopian. You, Mr President, managed in a very short time to assemble a ‘coalition against terror’ that spanned the whole world. In this connection, we are agreed that the use of force must always be the last resort in politics. But united action by the community of states sends a clear message from civilized societies to international terrorists, namely that we are determined to uphold peace and freedom.

We are therefore especially glad, Mr President, that your reaction to 11 September proved that all those were wrong who thought a new American unilateralism was emerging. Bringing both determination and patience to the task, you created the worldwide ‘coalition against terror’ and secured the necessary resolutions by the organs of the United Nations. Germans and Europeans trust that these will continue to be the principles you uphold in your policy regarding the international fight against terrorism.

Mr President, you have consistently stressed that the horror of 11 September offers a chance for the international community to act together. In your address to the Virginia Military Institute, you recalled the life’s-work of George C. Marshall – a man to whom we Germans especially owe a great deal. A resolute adversary of the National Socialist dictatorship, he went on to demonstrate equally resolute commitment to peace, to rebuilding democracy, and to ensuring secure living conditions. Today, too, we face similar challenges.

In this globalized world, fewer and fewer problems affect only individual countries, and they certainly cannot be solved by individual countries acting alone. Sooner or later, we all feel the consequences of worldwide economic integration, of social deprivation in the poor countries of the world, or of irresponsible use of the natural resource base. More and more frequently, the pursuit of unilateral interests proves short-sighted. Rather, there is an increasing need for joint analysis of the issues and joint action. We do not wish to impose our convictions on anyone, but we can help people to help themselves by introducing measures that secure peace. We need coalitions against the poverty in our world. We need coordinated action against the growing danger to the biosphere. We very much hope, Mr President, that we will be able to continue together on the road mapped out by the Kyoto Protocol. There is an urgent need for joint measures to combat an unbridled economy that is using globalization as a means of avoiding its social obligations. And no coalition is more urgently needed than a coalition for world peace. Your recent announcement that, in partnership with Russia, you will reduce the number of nuclear warheads by two-thirds in the next ten years is, in my view, an extremely hopeful sign.

In the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians particularly, only joint international action can open up new paths to end the cycle of violence and counterviolence, and bring about security and peace. The Middle East Conference scheduled for this summer, based on a joint initiative of the United Nations, the USA, Russia and the European Union, is a positive sign, and a hopeful one. We Germans will give this peace initiative our fullest support because our historical background has given us a dual burden of responsibility: towards Israel and towards the Palestinians.

Mr President, you have repeatedly stressed that America’s objectives go further than merely combating terror. America’s goal is also to make the world a better, more just place, in which inalienable human rights may be asserted on behalf of all human beings in all civilizations. This is an ambitious goal, but not an unattainable one. However, it is a challenge, and the only way we can rise to it is by cooperating closely, consolidating and strengthening international organizations.

Mr President, just over a week ago, the Conference of the Speakers of Parliaments of the Member States of the Council of Europe came to an end. In response to a proposal from me, the Speakers of Parliaments from more than 40 countries assembled there agreed unanimously to principles for a ‘Charter of the Duties of States’. It also contains an appeal “to ratify in their entirety the agreements on the protection of human rights and to adhere to the Statute of the International Criminal Court.” As regards advancing the development of international law institutions, too, we would very much welcome being able to move forward on these issues together with our American friends in future.

President Bush, may I invite you to take the floor.

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