Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany

Speech made to the Assembly

Thursday, 28 September 1995

Mr President, Mr Secretary General, ladies and gentlemen – or permit me, as someone who has been a parliamentarian for more than thirty years, to say dear colleagues. First of all, I should like to thank you, Mr President, very warmly for your kind words of welcome and for the cordial personal remarks in your speech. I am particularly pleased that you have welcomed me in my mother tongue, which gives me the hope that this may become a little more common practice in this Chamber.

The Parliamentary Assembly has never been just an advisory body, but has always seen itself, too, as one of the driving forces behind development of the Council of Europe and indeed Europe itself.

Our continent – we all feel this, and the presence of so many guests and representatives here today reflects the fact – is going through a dramatic phase of change and upheaval. We can also see that in this Chamber. Two years ago, the Council of Europe had twenty-seven member countries. It now has thirty-six and, counting guest delegations, freely elected representatives from a total of forty-two European countries are gathered here today.

It is only by stopping for a moment, considering what things are like in 1995 and then thinking back fifty years that we can measure the enormous distance we have covered in Europe in those decades. I say this in defiance of that foolish and modish pessimism which some people use to further their own political ends.

Looking at developments in Europe in the last fifty years, we can justly afford to feel optimistic. This is why I extend a particularly warm welcome to all the parliamentarians who have come here from central, south-eastern and eastern Europe. Your presence here is convincing proof of what I have just been saying. We have made considerable progress in the last fifty years and, if we have the intelligence, the patience and the courage – three things which belong together – to keep this up in the coming years and decades, there is every reason to hope that, after the twentieth century, which has seen so much in the way of distress, horror and suffering, the twenty-first century may yet turn out well.

The unnatural division of Europe and the unnatural division of Germany have been overcome. In a few days, on 3 October, we shall be celebrating the fifth anniversary of German unification. For us Germans it was a present given us by history, and we are grateful that it was possible for us to receive this present with the approval of all our neighbours.

Everything that is now happening and must happen in my country requires a great deal of energy, courage and mutual understanding, for forty years of division are more than just the result of a mathematical calculation. There was the wall between us and the fact that we belonged to separate political blocs. The experiences of this period of division have become etched on people’s hearts and minds.

Nevertheless, those of you who have visited Germany, including the new Lander, in the last few years will have been aware of the radical changes that are taking place and realised that, in spite of all the worries we naturally have, we are on the right path, although a great deal remains to be done. I am quite sure that the people in Germany will solve together the enormous economic and social problems they face. The most difficult of these problems are not those of a material nature, which we shall solve, though not all at the same time – some will take years. The most important thing, in spite of forty years of separation, is for us to come together again as human beings and, as I say back home, for us to talk to one another and not about one another.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Council of Europe is the oldest pan-European organisation of free states in Europe. It is – and I feel that this cannot be sufficiently repeated – an Institution which embodies like no other the unity of Europe based on respect for human rights, to which Pope John Paul II referred in his speech to the European Parliament as the “genius of Europe”.

In the decades following the end of the second world war, the Council of Europe was already playing an enormous part in drawing our continent together. In 1949 and the years after that, its founders – and we should think of them with gratitude more frequently – tried, often on the basis of their own agonising experiences, to learn the necessary lessons from the history of this century.

They clearly recognised that lasting peace and reconciliation in Europe could be secured only on the basis of democracy and respect for human rights. It is this spirit, this insight and vision of the world, which has determined the Council’s work ever since.

I can only congratulate you on the way in which you continue to apply these principles in admitting new members. Your recommendations to the Committee of Ministers are the basis of its decisions on allowing new countries to join. It must also be said that individual members of the Assembly have done much, in the course of contacts and discussions in applicant countries, to promote democratic structures and further the cause of reform. That, too, is one of the ways in which the Assembly has lived up to its great responsibilities.

It has sometimes been said – and I fully agree with this – that the Parliamentary Assembly is Europe’s “democratic conscience”. You have never shied away from difficult issues – and I hope that we shall be tackling some difficult issues later – from maintaining the Council’s high standards and from making yourselves heard whenever those standards are breached. I would strongly encourage you to keep on doing this in future. You stand for values without which Europe can have no free future.

I have good reasons for mentioning the Council’s work on improving the protection of minorities. I should like, above all, to pay tribute to the framework convention which seeks, for the first time, to protect minority rights and freedoms effectively in international law.

Ladies and gentlemen, I spoke just now about this century, which will be coming to an end in five years’ time. If we stop for a moment and consider what course this century would have taken if we had had declarations that are binding in international law as early as 1910 we realise that we and the peoples of Europe would have been spared terrible suffering.

You have only to watch the reports from the former Yugoslavia on the evening news to see once again how vital it is that Europeans should stop merely talking about the rules embodied in the European Convention on Human Rights and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, and at last start applying them.

The important thing now – and I am saying this as German head of government – is also to strengthen the Council of Europe for the tasks that lie ahead. I am thinking here of the European Convention on Human Rights, better protection for minorities and – jointly with the European Union – resolute words and action to combat racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic tendencies.

Ladies and gentlemen, for our partner countries in central, south-eastern and eastern Europe, membership of the Council of Europe is an important step towards full integration within the European community of values and – I say this advisedly – rights. In this connection I welcome your recommendations in favour of the accession of Macedonia and Ukraine.

It also needs to be clearly pointed out that one of the great challenges of the years ahead will be getting Russia, too, to see its future in European terms – politically, economically, in matters of security and, last but not least, culturally.

Decades of conflict between East and West have made many people here in Europe forget that Russia is part of Europe, not only geographically but in an historical and cultural sense. This is why I particularly welcome your decision to put consideration of Russia’s accession back on the Council’s agenda.

I wish to add here, to make my personal standpoint absolutely clear, that I hope we shall soon 'take a positive decision. We must make it our business – and I say this again as German Chancellor – to support all those in Russia who want and are working to secure the reforms needed to turn their country into a state ruled by law and into a free democracy. Moreover – and this needs to be said here too – the Council of Europe in particular has also worked with non-European countries in the past that respect and are committed to the principles of this Organisation.

For this reason I wish to make a second point here and hope to be able to discuss it with you later: I strongly recommend that we all of us here, in the Council of Europe, look together at ways of forging closer ties with non-European countries, and particularly the United States of America.

Thinking of the ninety-five years we have behind us and the few we have left before this century ends, I cannot believe that it would be wise to make the trans-Atlantic bridge narrower. We should, I believe, make it as broad as we can – from the point of view of economic issues, the environment, security policy, cultural matters and scientific co-operation.

Ladies and gentlemen, right from the beginning the Council of Europe has also seen as one of its tasks the need to keep alive and cultivate an awareness of Europe’s cultural unity. Because of unemployment and, in many cases, mass unemployment, social deprivation and hunger in many parts of the world, one of the most important issues for many people is, of course, an economic one, namely the need to have a job and earn their daily bread. This also applies especially in connection with the ecological challenges we face.

We must not allow the treasures of nature, the gifts of God’s Creation, to be ruined in our generation. At the same time, I should like to warn against our losing sight in our everyday activities – in our necessary concern to earn a living – of the cultural dimension of our own existence, the existence of our peoples and our continent.

This century in particular, with its long roll-call of disasters, has shown us – and we Germans have been taught this by our own history – that a common culture will remain the bond which holds Europe together.

I should therefore like expressly to encourage you in your discussions – and I say this on a day on which you are debating the problems facing OECD – not to lose sight of the cultural dimension of our continent. We should not forget that we come to realise every day that man does not live on bread alone and that the most important and most precious experiences in our private lives have a great deal to do with our cultural environment.

Our aim here must be to achieve pan-European co-operation in important fields, such as school and university education, exchanges in the visual arts and the preservation of our cultural heritage. These sound like very lofty aims, and I should be quite satisfied if, as far as the universities are concerned, we could at least set ourselves the goal of restoring the situation that prevailed in 1910. Yes, you heard right: in 1910 one was able to begin one’s studies at Heidelberg, my own university, and then continue at the Sorbonne and in Oxford. And, if one had the necessary money, one could then also carry on studying at Harvard. At that time all the exams one passed were recognised without any need to sit more.

There were no international treaties on the subject and there were no complicated relationships, such as those between the federation and the Lander in Germany and between the Federal Government and other European states. There were no commission meetings but simply mutual trust among the universities and the moral and educational duty to help young people.

If we translate part of the attitude that prevailed at that time into reality today we can at least say to the generation of 1910 that we are just as good now as you were then. This would be an enormous step forward.

Europe’s cultural identity is, of course, reflected in the diversity of its languages. You would naturally expect the German Chancellor at least to say a sentence or two on this subject. Those who do not have the wrong picture of this Chancellor.

We have two official languages here, and I think it is also time for those who find it difficult to accept to realise that the desire to give German parity at the Council of Europe is not just any wish but a very important one that we Germans are expressing here.

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, today no part of what will be important for the future of coming generations can be achieved by one state alone by applying the old-style thinking of the nation-state, nor will it be achieved tomorrow and, even less, the day after tomorrow.

This is the historical experience of an entire century. If you look at all the great challenges facing us – unemployment, safeguarding Europe’s economic position in a situation of increasing international competition, for example in Asia and other continents, improvements in environmental protection – I much prefer to say the preservation of God’s Creation – combating cross-border crime, a challenge that is greater than many people understand and has become one of the biggest dangers confronting our continent – then you realise that we are forced to work together.

Much of this was said as long ago as 1949 and was mentioned in the Statute of the Council of Europe. Honesty requires us, in my opinion, to repeat that the dreamers of yesterday have proved to be the realists of today and that he who dreams of Europe need not worry about being called a dreamer, because history will prove him right.

Ladies and gentlemen, without the Council of Europe – this needs to be said in this Chamber, since the Council is not alone in using it – the European Community, now the European Union, could not have been established.

The European Union’s Intergovernmental Conference will be starting next year. Under the Italian and Irish presidencies, it will run through the rest of 1996 and will then, I very much hope, conclude under the Dutch presidency in the first half of 1997.

The moment of truth has now come, and many of the things that are still vague must be made definite.

We now have a choice between building the European home and failing in the eyes of history.

I do not believe that the chances we now have, in spite of all the difficulties, will return in the foreseeable future. We know from the philosophy of history that historical phases are often divided into three: one phase in which events develop, a short phase in which decisions are taken – which often goes unnoticed by the peoples concerned – and a long phase in which peoples experience or suffer from the consequences of these decisions.

I am firmly convinced that we are now in the short decision-making phase. Today – five years before the turn of the millennium – the necessary decisions must be taken. The success of the intergovernmental conference depends, amongst other things, on our having the idea of a common Europe, an awareness of the unity of Europe, a European identity.

When I speak about a European identity I do not mean something that contrasts with our national identity. It is one of the great misunderstandings to believe one can give up one’s national identity in order to take on a European one. Both belong together.

Germany remains my fatherland, and Europe is my future. There is no contradiction in this. It is complementary to the historical thinking of our time. This is why the great European debate now taking place is primarily about these core concepts.

I should like to see a good deal of intellectual openness, in accordance with European traditions, and not the narrow-minded attitudes one unfortunately often encounters.

We also want close partnerships with the neighbouring regions in eastern, south-eastern and southern Europe, because our future also depends on their economic and political stability. The European Union has concluded or drawn up agreements with our partners in central, south-eastern and eastern Europe, especially with those states that have the prospect of joining and wish to do so.

There must not be anything automatic about this process: the countries and peoples concerned must themselves wish to join. However, we must not turn the European Union into a European fortress either. More than anything else, the countries themselves must decide about their future. The policy of reform is also a policy of joining Europe and there must not be any short-cuts.

We want a wider pan-European security system. We want to expand Nato eastwards and, at the same time, establish a sound, unambiguous security partnership with Russia and Ukraine that is acceptable for all parties, for we do not want to erect any new walls in the area of military security either.

Nearly five years ago, we adopted the Charter of Paris. I am concerned that we are still unable to implement its principles throughout Europe. There are still ethnic and religious hatred and the persecution of ethnic and religious minorities.

The terrible images of suffering and death that reach us daily from the former Yugoslavia are not simply pictures of one of the greatest tragedies of the present time. They are also a warning and reminder that it is only by uniting Europe that we can avoid relapsing into barbarism in the twenty-first century.

There are many reasons for building the European home, but the most important thing for me is that we Europeans should live together in peace and freedom in the twenty-first- century and never fall back into that barbaric era which we have left behind us.

This also means that Europe needs the spirit of dialogue and the chance to engage in that dialogue across denominational and religious borders today more than ever before. Our aim must be to build an ecumenical bridge, in the broadest sense of the word, from the monasteries and convents of Ireland to the churches and cathedrals of Kyev and Moscow. We must preserve the positive aspects of our European heritage, the product of hundreds of years of development. I do not only mean Europe’s great masterpieces of literature, music or painting, nor its unique architectural monuments. I am referring in particular to the spirit, the cultural inspiration, that gave shape to these epochs and these works of art, lending the latter a timeless magnificence and beauty that transcends national borders.

In this spirit, classical philosophy and Humanism, the rational thinking of the Age of Enlightenment and Christianity, with its profound formative influence, all flow together. This, ladies and gentlemen, constitutes our common origin; it has shaped our awareness as Europeans. The idea of European unity can be neither understood nor implemented in the future without the system of values that we all have in common, a system based on the uniqueness of the human being, on respect for life, on respect for human dignity and on individual rights and freedoms.

In western Europe we have lived in peace for fifty years. For us Germans this is the longest period of peace in our recent history. Konrad Adenauer’s wish, which he expressed in the first statement of his government’s policies in 1949, that we might live in peace and friendship with all our neighbours, has come true.

The ceremonies in May this year marking the 50th anniversary of the end of the second world war made it clear that we must not forget and bury our history. We must be capable of learning from it. In this spirit and with this awareness, we must direct our thoughts and actions to the future of a united and peaceful Europe. Then we shall be armed against any relapse into past ways.

I say this as a warning to us all: the spectres of chauvinism and fundamentalism are not to be found only in the Balkans or across the Mediterranean. If we want to preserve peace and freedom we must make the process leading to a united Europe irreversible.

We need a weatherproof European house with a strong roof that can accommodate all European peoples according to their needs, and I hope that our American friends can have a permanent right of residence in this house. We want the political integration of Europe; we do not want a kind of advanced free- trade zone of the kind some people doubtless have in mind.

However, anyone who is aware of history, especially economic history, knows that no continent can be kept together with a common currency alone. This Europe needs a political roof and practical solidarity, even at times when an unfavourable wind is blowing.

People keep saying that European unity is not making any progress and that, indeed, Europeans are sceptical and tired. I hear this every day. If people are looking for a lesson in faint-heartedness and a lack of willingness to shape the future they occupy themselves with European matters. Anyone who has spent a long time on European committees, from nine in the morning until two the next morning, may have sufficient grounds for despair.

At the end of the war I was fifteen years old. This was fifty years ago. I experienced a declaration of belief in Europe – I have already said this in this Assembly – for the first time as a 17-year-old not far from here on the Alsace-Palatinate border. As a group of grammar school pupils from Alsace and the Palatinate, we pulled out posts marking the border and sang European songs. We were all certain that “Europe” had arrived. It was still a long way off. The posts were rammed back in and we were chased back across the border.

Today, for our children’s generation “Europe” is more or less taken for granted. If you go to the Charles Bridge in Prague in the summer or the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Piccadilly Circus in London, the Spanish Steps in Rome or the Rhine valley in Germany you will meet thousands of young people from all over Europe – and I say this as a warning to us and to my generation – who are far ahead of us in their thinking and with their hopes, their feelings and, I believe, their actions.

It is true that the peoples of our continent are very different, but it is precisely this diversity that gives us a fantastic opportunity. We do not want a monochrome Europe; we want the whole range of colours our continent has to offer. Europe’s hallmark must be – diversity, not uniformity. We benefit both in our every day political activities and culturally from the conflict between uniformity and living diversity.

Ladies and gentlemen, I hope that we can go into this European future together. It is worthwhile working for this objective; it is, not least, also worthwhile if you consider the young people in Europe. It is their future that is at stake. This is all about the young generation we see growing up in Europe who – and I say this as a German whose family has lost a son in every war – for the first time ever has the chance not to have to go to war and to be able to live in peace and freedom in the twenty-first century.

If we face up to this challenge there will be no reason for anyone to be faint-hearted. This Assembly, too, will also have its important role to play tomorrow and in the future. I wish you and us every success in this venture.


Thank you, Chancellor Kohl. A record number of colleagues – thirty-five of them from twenty-four countries – want to ask you spontaneous questions if there is time. I have tried to group them according to subject matter – always a dangerous exercise – and I must stress that no one will have a chance to ask another question. What is more, I have put in an automatic system that will cut off the microphones after thirty seconds. If members can ask their questions in twenty seconds, so much the better – others will have more of a chance to ask theirs.

Perhaps I may presume to ask Chancellor Kohl, too, to be as concise as possible.

The first set of questions dealing with the future of the Council of Europe will be asked by the following colleagues: Mrs Gelderblom-Lankhout, Mr Seitlinger, Mr Severin, Mr Columberg, Mr Rodrigues, Sir Russell Johnston, and Mr Latronico. I call Mrs Gelderblom-Lankout.

Mrs GELDERBLOM-LANKOUT (Netherlands) (translation)

Mr President, I hope that simultaneous translation is being provided as I like to be able to speak my own language in the Assembly. What a pleasure it is to hear someone speaking enthusiastically about Europe again, and offering us prospects for the future. Chancellor, you have gladdened our hearts. My question will be brief: How do you envisage co-operation between the European Parliament and the Council of Europe?

Mr SEITLINGER (France) (translation)

Mr Chancellor, my question concerns our relations with the Russian Federation. Two days ago we decided to end the provisional freeze on the procedure concerning the Russian Federation’s application for membership and to resume the accession process. You have, of course, already commented very clearly on this matter, and your opinion is well known to us. Personally, I share it. However, I should like to know whether you consider that it is in the interests of Russia and of Europe as a whole for this major country to become a member of our Organisation in the near future. Do you think that that would be an important, indeed decisive contribution to stability and peace in Europe?

Mr SEVERIN (Romania)

As you know, Chancellor Kohl, in Romania we have a German minority which wants to remain in Romania but which is afraid that a new German Ostpolitik will reiterate the old Bismarck approach, which opened the door to the autocratic Russian tsars in the middle of Europe. What is your message for those Germans who, like their Romanian fellows, do not want to remain behind a new iron curtain, and who understand the enlargement of Europe to mean the extension of western democratic civilisation to the Orient, not the opposite?

Mr COLUMBERG (Switzerland) (translation)

Chancellor, thank you for your tremendous statement in support of Europe and the strengthening of the Council of Europe. You have successfully supported the expansion of the Council and the construction of a new Europe. These new tasks require an additional effort on the part of the Council of Europe.

Mr RODRIGUES (Portugal) (translation)

Mr Chancellor, the official request by the United States to become a special observer at the Council of Europe has sparked off a polemic not only in Europe but throughout the American continent. A major Brazilian newspaper has published the results of a survey carried out in Washington, which found that the United States would oppose a request by Germany and France to be admitted to the Organization of American States as observers.

What is your view, Mr Chancellor, of the request by the United States? Do you envisage seeking observer status for your country with the OAS? Will the trans-Atlantic bridge be the prologue to a protectorate?

Sir Russell JOHNSTON (United Kingdom)

May I say, Mr President, as a British Liberal, that many of all nationalities in the European Union regard the Chancellor as the last real European and admire him greatly for it? We hope he will never give up.

As you, Mr President, and the Chancellor both know, this Assembly is called on to do more and more in central and eastern Europe while being held on a lower budget. Heads of government come in procession to praise us while simultaneously denying us the resources to fulfil our responsibilities. What is the attitude of the German Government to the financing of the Council of Europe?

Mr LATRONICO (Italy) (translation)

Chancellor, I enormously appreciated what you said about the future of Europe and about Italy. You expressed the hope that German might become an official language in the near future. Do you not think that, in the near future, Italian, like German, might become an official language of the Council of Europe, given that our native tongues are symbols of a great historical and cultural reality in Europe and throughout the world?

Mr Kohl, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (translation)

I shall answer the last question first. It is natural that you should support the use of Italian. If we go back to origins we shall have to go back to the time of the Vatican and declare Latin to be the language of Europe. This would have a very adverse effect on our speaking times. I understand your position and you, I think, understand mine.

There are striking differences between the Council of Europe and the European Parliament, with each institution having its own task. I am one of those who do not believe the Council of Europe has come to the end of its development. I am of the opinion – and in pointing this out I am saying something you think and feel too – that those European countries that have a distinctly European identity and cannot or will not be able to become members of the European Union have a mouthpiece here, that we find Europe’s cultural dimension here, and that a great deal is being done here.

Let me give you an example that, strangely enough, is constantly underestimated, something that even I, as the chairman of a large German party am not guilty of: in this Parliamentary Assembly there are delegates who have seats in their national parliaments at the same time. It is, of course, very much easier to integrate national parliaments and this Assembly than it is to integrate national parliaments and the European Parliament. We can say it openly: there is an alienation process between the national parliaments in all countries and the members of the European Parliament, which also meets in this Chamber. We also see this happening in the national parties.

I think it is an extremely important fact that the men and women who perform their functions in their national parliaments at least gain direct experience of Europe a few times a year whilst they are members of parliament and that personal friendships are formed in this Assembly, not only between groups with different party political origins but also between groups from different countries.

I mentioned just now the example of the cathedrals from Ireland to Kyev and Moscow. There is a big difference whether a parliamentary delegation visits another parliament – when people eat and drink well and a great deal of talking takes place, which is usually as far as it goes – and whether large numbers of them sit with their colleagues for years or decades, not only during but also outside their actual working hours, and get to know problems and pass this information on to others. I consider this to be one of the most important aspects of the process of European unity. This is one aspect of the Council of Europe’s work that cannot be valued too highly.

There are considerable differences between the tasks of the Council of Europe and those of the European Parliament. I do not see any reason why we should have a pessimistic view of the future.

Let me make it clear that I see no problems here. If we define our tasks properly — both the President and I have mentioned the number of new member states – this will naturally lead to more investment. The Germans have never held back when it comes to investing in Europe. I do not want to bore you with figures on the amounts involved, although I would have no difficulty stating them in public. However, as I have been asked this question I shall reply that we can find the money and I personally welcome our doing so.

Now to our relations with Russia. Ladies and gentlemen, one of the central issues facing Europe has been mentioned here. Whether individuals among you like it or not, whether they vote in favour of Russia becoming a full member of this House or not, reality will catch up with them as soon as they look at the map. We must ensure that now, in the year 1995, there is not a general feeling, which can sometimes be discerned in the West, including the other side of the Atlantic, that the third world war has, thank God, not taken place, but the Russians have lost it anyway.

The Russians are a great, cultivated people. Russia is a country with a great history and great traditions.

Many of those who bear political responsibility there today witnessed a series of state funerals just a few years ago – just think back ten years – when the Soviet Union was still in existence. How many westerners who are now making completely different statements went to the Kremlin in those days and kowtowed to the mighty?

Because the situation is as it is I advise us to take an overall view of Russia. We shall not be able to have a durable peace and freedom in Europe if the most powerful people in the East do not find their way to reforms, democracy, the rule of law and everything associated with it. Since the October Revolution Russia has gone through difficult times.

I should like to make it quite clear that there are two schools of thought in the West – in Germany, too, incidentally. Some people sit down and say it cannot work, that Yeltsin – or whoever it may be, will never succeed, that things will turn out badly. These are the really clever people – or at least they think so. Then there is the other school of thought, to which I, and many others, belong. I say I do not know if things will turn out well. I only know one thing: if we do nothing, if we do not help Russia to help herself, if we do not hold out our hand and say “Welcome”, then things certainly will turn out badly.

I mentioned my age just now. In the years 1946 to 1948, when we were going to grammar school, we asked our parents: how was it possible for the nazis to get into power in 1933? Didn’t you realise what was going on? Why didn’t you do anything about it? At that age young people are quick to criticise.

I should not like to see the present younger generation ask those with political responsibility in Europe at the moment — this means you, too, with the decisions you take: didn’t you see that you had to take a big step forward and perhaps agree to carry out an experiment? They would tell us now: you have everything to gain. If you write this big country off right from the beginning, with all the consequences this would have for Ukraine and other countries – I just want to make this brief point, given the limited time available – then we will have lost the battle. Please consider this and take your decisions in this spirit.

I did not quite understand the question concerning the German minority in Romania. Otto von Bismarck has been dead for some time and does not have a successor. The German minority is happy to stay in Romania. However, it had to live for many years under one of the most criminal regimes there has ever been in Europe. I never enjoyed having to negotiate with Mr and Mrs Ceausescu in the manner of the slave trade. We paid between 15 000 and 20 000 Deutschmarks to secure a German’s freedom, and it did not give us any pleasure.

My wish is that your decisions concerning minority rights should apply all over Europe and that people of German extraction, some of whom have been living there since the time of Maria Theresia, or even longer, should remain where they have their homes, where they have buried their dead and where the gravestones testify to their history. In a different Europe the important issue should not be national frontiers but the possibility of living with one another in freedom.

Now the subject of the United States. I have already indicated that I see no problems here. I cannot discern any signs of our becoming a United States protectorate. Ladies and gentlemen, I see this quite differently: the Europeans, after many trials and tribulations, are now in the process of reflecting upon themselves and their own strength. Those who speak about the Americans should be honest enough to admit – and I say this as a German – that the nazi period would not have been brought to an end without them. This is the truth.

But I cannot call in the Americans whenever some trouble is happening in the world and say: you are the world power, put things right. If they succeed no one says thank you, but if they do not – and they are statistically likely to fail a certain percentage of the time – many people say the Americans are totally incompetent. ,

I consider this way of looking at things rather absurd. As a European German and a German European, as Thomas Mann said – and I very much like his way of putting it -I have enough self-confidence. We have just as much grey matter as the Japanese and the Americans, and if we now learn to use it, both individuals and Europe as a whole, we do not need to have any complexes.

On the contrary, I keep saying to my American friends and others I talk to that if you want to make a mistake on the threshold of the twenty-first century then just put your glasses on in such a way that you can only see the Pacific. The Pacific is important, but it is only one of the oceans. The Atlantic is an ocean too.

We are sitting on this side of the Atlantic. We have not yet reached our limits, even though it looks like it on some days. However, there can be no question of our not having the strength if we join forces.

I wish there were a bridge between Europe and the other side of the Atlantic on which there is not only military traffic like at the time of the cold war. I wish a lot more young Americans and young Europeans would work and study over here and over there and get to know each other’s country and people. I want Europeans to invest in the USA and the Americans to invest in Germany. I want a broad cultural exchange, from language learning through religion and the cultural aspects of a country to scientific activities.

I mentioned Harvard just now. If you read about the history of this great American university you will find traces of Oxford, the Sorbonne and Heidelberg. That is part of our common history. I can therefore only advise you to help ensure that the Americans feel at home in this House too.

I believe it would be good for the American Senate and the House of Representatives if younger politicians were to sit in the Strasbourg Parliament and get to know the complicated nature of European politics before they assume functions over there. If we isolate ourselves no discussions will take place. I said in a different context just now that things will only turn out well if we talk to one another and not about one another.

As far as I can tell I have now answered all the questions.

Mr President, to put your colleagues at ease I should just like to say that if the tasks ahead are defined in the way we are discussing them here the financing of this Organisation will not turn out to be an impossible undertaking.


Thank you, Chancellor Kohl. We come to the second set of questions from Mr Grzyb, Mr Motiu, Mr Saudargas, Mr Benvenuti, Mr Bianchi and Mrs Ragnarsöttir. I call Mr Grzyb.

Mr GRZYB (Poland) (translation)

Chancellor, thank you very much for your very interesting speech.

Poland and other central and eastern European states that have association agreements with the European Union are convinced that representatives of all these countries must be present at the intergovernmental conference in Essen in 1996, so that we can participate in the decisions on the enlargement of and changes to the internal structure of the European Union.

Chancellor, what is your opinion on this?

Mr MOTIU (Romania)

We greatly appreciate your presence here and I should like to ask you two questions. Firstly, are you in favour of reshaping central and eastern Europe, and in what respect? Secondly, could you give us some details of your 1991 agreement with Mr Gorbachev, especially regarding Europe’s near neighbours in the former Soviet Union?

Mr SAUDARGAS (Lithuania)

Chancellor, Germany has constantly supported Lithuania and the other Baltic states in their attempts to align themselves with other central European states. Do you see any argument for introducing specific political preconditions in the process of our accession to the European Union that divide us from the other central European states?

Mr BENVENUTI (Italy) (translation)

You referred Chancellor, to the development of a European security system and the extension of Nato eastwards. In this context and in view of the fact that Nato is a defence agreement, do you think that the aims and mechanisms of NATO ought to be redefined, when the European security system is worked out?

Mr BIANCHI (Italy) (translation)

Chancellor, as a leader of courage, wisdom and patience, talents which are essential for the achievement of European goals (and I do not just mean the economic and political stages leading to the European Union, but also the immediate aims of this Assembly), do you not think that the process of European integration needs more concerted action, with all the members ranking equally, so as to prevent an outside state from being able to call into question the credibility of some of the partners?


The many challenges and contradictions that face the European Union raise questions about their solution. Is it possible to seek a solution to such problems as monetary union, the budget, the role of WEU and institutional reform, and at the same time press on with the enlargement of the Union? Do you not think that an order of priority is needed and how would you foresee such a prioritisation?


I call Chancellor Kohl to reply to these questions.

Mr Kohl, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (translation)

Mr President, I am unfortunately only the Federal Chancellor and not a stenographer. The interpreters are working so fast that I can hardly keep up. Please forgive me if I have not quite understood a question.

First of all, our colleague from Poland: I do not believe it will be possible to give the participants at last December’s conference in Essen, to which I issued the invitations, full rights of participation when we come to drawing up the intergovernmental conference documents. However, I do see a possibility, and one that also makes sense – we discussed this, incidentally, last weekend in Mallorca during the negotiations on the intergovernmental conference – I prefer to say the Maastricht II Treaty, as this is a term that can be better understood – we should conduct a very intensive exchange of views and information. I think that is what you need.

If I have correctly understood the question concerning the talks I had and the agreements I reached with Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990 it is based on a common error: when we were discussing German unification in summer 1990 we were still referring to the Soviet Union. No one expected that a few months later the Soviet Union would no longer exist. Mikhail Gorbachev certainly did not, nor did I. No one mentioned that the problem posed today by Nato’s expansion to neighbouring countries might arise.

There were therefore no agreements in this respect. We only spoke about the fact that after German reunification no conditions would be imposed on German soldiers who are part of Nato being stationed on the territory of the former German Democratic Republic – that is there was to be no cordon sanitaire.

I am quite certain that there is a way of reaching agreement, with a clear definition of the possibilities available, with Russia, Ukraine and other states, for example in connection with Nato’s expansion to take in Poland – which Moscow sees as the most serious problem. Russia cannot, of course, become a member of Nato but it can certainly conclude agreements with it that serve to establish sensible relations and prevent any feeling arising that Russia is under threat or in any danger. However, I admit that the time is not right for such talks. The elections to the Russian Parliament will be held in a few weeks and the presidential elections will be taking place next summer. The primaries are in full swing in America. I do not believe that election periods are a good time to discuss such questions. Moreover, we have no reason at all to put ourselves under unnecessary pressure. I am quite certain that in fifteen months’ time we shall be able to talk to one another much more calmly on this question.

This also applies, incidentally, to the next question, the development of the Baltic states. As far as they are concerned, all Europeans, especially we Germans, have a particular historical responsibility to bear. It was Hitler who betrayed the Baltic states by giving them to Stalin. For this reason, history has imposed on us a particular responsibility to see that these peoples’ civil rights and liberties and other rights are respected and to seek ways and means of bringing this about.

Now to the question of how the European security system and Nato can be linked together. Well, ladies and gentlemen, the Nato of 1995 no longer has the same function to perform as the Nato of 1985. As you know, I became Chancellor on 1 October 1982. In the years that followed the main subject of German domestic policy was the deployment of medium-range missiles, and this was accompanied by a heated discussion. Today, we have almost forgotten that we argued in Nato in summer 1988, seven years ago – yes, you heard right – about the deployment of more short-range missiles, the type that were to be deployed in western Germany and would have landed in eastern Germany. Many of you in this Chamber will still be able to remember that I flatly refused to allow such missiles to be deployed in Germany. Today, the vast majority of them have long been turned into scrap.

It is, therefore, very important that Nato should define its objectives anew – we need Nato in the future too. Part of this definition is our relationship with Russia, which I have just spoken about.

As far as the intergovernmental conference timetable for economic and monetary union and enlargement is concerned, we should be sensible, ladies and gentlemen. It is rather absurd to believe that all this can be done at the same time. You said a lot of nice things about me earlier on. Sometimes it sounded as though I have already passed on to the other side and have become a monument. However, I am still very much alive and present here today, and I am driven by one great objective that, for me, is very important. I was twenty years old and a sixth-former when I heard Konrad Adenauer say a sentence that I have remembered and which, in addition to others, has become a maxim for my political efforts. At that time he told us young people that German unity and European integration are two sides of the same coin. If the Germans are content just to have German unity they will fail to do their historical duty. We all need Europe, but we Germans need it more. That is why I say, to my own country too, that whoever derives the greatest benefit must pay the most. I still consider this to be justified. However, don’t misunderstand me: this does not mean that others who benefit should not pay very much.

We have a clear agreement that the intergovernmental conference will begin in 1996 and must be finished by 1997. There is no way that we can put off dealing with the issues involved. Just to make it absolutely clear: we have no option but to succeed.

In the second half of 1997, when Luxembourg holds the presidency, we must begin to take the decisions on economic and monetary union, the form of which has already been agreed. This will involve a large number of difficult discussions.

We have said that six months after the end of the intergovernmental conference, that is at the end of 1997, we will open negotiations on membership, for example with Malta. I also said in my speech before the Polish Parliament that I believe negotiations will get under way if and when individual countries have created the relevant structures. This will be towards the turn of the century. Although I cannot give you a firm date I can say one thing: we cannot group countries together. What we did with Austria, Sweden and Finland, namely “packaging” them together, cannot be repeated. When it comes to enlarging the European Union by taking in countries from central, eastern and south-eastern Europe, those countries must be considered individually, and separate decisions must be taken.


Thank you, Chancellor. We come to the third grouping of questions. We shall hear from Mr Figel, Mr Elo, Mr Gross, Mr Korkeaoja, Mrs Veidemann, Mr Kiliç, Mr Bârsony, Mr Bartodziej and Mrs Guirado. Mr Figel from Slovakia has the first question.

Mr FIGEL (Slovakia)

During the cold war many political emigrants from Slovakia and other countries fleeing from the eastern side of the iron curtain found asylum and their new homeland in the Federal Republic of West Germany. Our anti-regime dissident movements in the past as well as democrats today could and can rely on Germany’s principal foreign, and especially human rights, policy. People in Slovakia are grateful for that. What is your message for those in eastern Europe who are sceptical about Germany’s commitment?

Mr ELO (Finland) (translation)

Chancellor, you said in your speech that you assumed Nato would be enlarged. You also considered Nato’s future in response to a question on the subject. Could you detail your ideas on the enlargement of Nato? For example, is there a timetable? In your opinion, what countries will first be considered as members? Finally, Chancellor, what influence does Russia’s negative attitude have on the question of enlargement? After all, President Yeltsin said a few weeks ago that the enlargement of Nato might lead to war.

Mr GROSS (Switzerland) (translation)

Chancellor, I should like to use the fact that you enjoy a discussion and like to experiment to ask you a question and issue an invitation. Do you not believe that with monetary union the imbalance between political integration and democratic legitimacy on the one hand and economic integration on the other could become so great that the intensity of conflicts will increase to such a degree that it will no longer be possible to deal with them by political means? Could you perhaps put your ideas for the future in more concrete terms?

Mr KORKEAOJA (Finland)

European integration is taking new steps on different levels: on the political level, the Council of Europe is accepting new members; on the economic level, the European Union is preparing for the next enlargement process; on the military level, there is a debate about enlargement of Nato. How do you see the relationships between those different aspects of integration, and do you prefer one more than the other?

Mrs VEIDEMANN (Estonia)

Thank you for your very encouraging speech, Chancellor. What, in your opinion, would Germany be ready to do in the present situation to favour the integration of central and eastern European countries, including the Baltic states, into the European Union and the Western European Union?

Mr KILIÇ (Turkey)

I should like to know your opinion, Chancellor Kohl, on the accession of Turkey to the Customs Union. Your opinion and the attitude of Germany are of utmost importance to Turkey because Germany is among the front-line countries for Turkey in foreign trade and also because of the number of Turkish citizens working in Germany.

Mr BARSONY (Hungary)

I fully agreed with you, Chancellor Kohl, when you used the word Miteinanderreden. Therefore, will you support the participation of the contracted partners as observers at the intergovernmental conference?

Mr BARTODZIEJ (Poland) (translation)

Chancellor, Europe needs a common, healthy economy, and this includes a good agricultural policy. I should like to ask you what changes you think need to be made in European agricultural policy in connection with the possible enlargement of the European Union.

Mrs GUIRADO (Spain) (interpretation)

asked what the Chancellor thought would be the best political response if many countries were not ready for the third phase of economic and monetary union in 1997.

Mr Kohl, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (translation)

One of our colleagues asked whether the countries of central and eastern Europe could be given a message of optimism. I hope you understand the way I have begun to answer this question. I cannot understand this scepticism and pessimism at all. After all, you only have to compare the course of your own lives with the number of years we have behind us. I referred earlier to my period in office as Federal Chancellor. In a few days it will be thirteen years. When I came to office the main subjects were rearmament, the danger of war, the stationing of troops and the acquisition of tanks. We were absolutely dominated by military issues.

I am now negotiating with Boris Yeltsin on what we can do together in order, for example, to abolish biological weapons – not only on paper but actually to scrap them, which is extremely dangerous as far as some of these terrible weapons are concerned. Colleagues, this has happened during my time in office, in just over ten years. Just think about that.

Our colleague from eastern Europe who spoke just now would not have dreamed ten years ago that he would be sitting in this Assembly today. You do not need any encouragement; you only have to look at yourselves in the mirror – and if, like me, you have a wet shave you must do so twice a day. So, you have your image in front of you. Just consider where you have come from. The decline of the West is not taking place – this was the title of a book written by a German in the twenties. It is not worth the paper it is written on. You can throw these ideas away.

I do not travel around trying to heal the world with my speeches. You know, when you have been head of government in Germany and chairman of the Christian Democratic Union for long enough you are incapable of healing anything through prayer. You must think every day about how to stay firmly in the saddle, and you become an expert in this area. Then you are a realist.

Just take a look around you. Look at your President. What a splendid man. What a life he went through during the dictatorship, and now he is sitting here as President of this important European Organisation. I could illustrate this point by referring to the lives of many others I recognise here in this Chamber.

Let us not say one person is an optimist and another is not. We are realists, and we have a difficult road ahead.

I have spoken about Russia. Just take a look at its history. Russia’s history does not begin with the October Revolution. The Tsarist regime that preceded it was not a perfect example of democracy either. There was already corruption then, and many other things were wrong at that time too. You cannot expect all that to change in three or four years. In particular, we must try to live with individuals and peoples as they are. We cannot reinvent them every day. It normally takes nine months for a result in this area, after which the mother must bring her child up. So we must try to live with individuals and peoples as they are, and with no one else. I think the prospects are good.

The enlargement of Nato has been mentioned. Did anyone expect Boris Yeltsin and the Russian leadership to jump up and say thank goodness Nato is coming? Did you expect people in Russia to accept this just like that? One of those who passionately support democracy in Russia visited me a few days ago. He had been on a trip to Siberia and other parts of Russia in preparation for the elections to the Duma. He reported that he had been asked: If you become President will you tolerate Nato bombarding Russian cities? We can, of course, say this was an absurd question, but propaganda has shaped people’s thinking all over Europe over a period of decades, and that goes for Russia too. You cannot switch everything off overnight in the way that you switch the light off and say things were not like that at all.

We must speak to people and make things clear to them. It is our job in the West – both mine and other people’s – to tell them that we want to extend the Nato umbrella to the countries of central and eastern Europe that want it and where it makes sense. However, we do not want to do it with a show of strength that would result in our opening up new rifts. Rather, we want a sensible agreement with Russia, Ukraine and other states.

Just take it for granted – this was one of the questions – that what I can do, what we Germans can do, we shall do, because it is in our own best interests. A glance at the map shows – I also say this to my compatriots at home – that our birthplace, as it were, imposes on us a geopolitical obligation to do this. We cannot live in peace in Germany when things are not going well in eastern Europe, so this is in our best interests.

With regard to the question of monetary union and democratic legitimacy, to be honest I did not understand it. If there is no monetary union there is no political union. That is quite simple. Those who believe they can have economic and monetary union without a political union are being very unrealistic.

There are people in Europe who say this sometimes, but I have not only had the suspicion but have been certain for some time that they do not want political union. Rather, they want to ruin the Union by supporting an isolationist policy.

I do not know why democracy should be in danger – I am using my own words here – when we have monetary union. When we have a European central bank and try to ensure we have a stable currency, and when we ensure, as we are doing now, that the level of public debt meets the criteria laid down in the Maastricht Treaty and that inflation is reduced to an acceptable level, then this is certainly compatible with my understanding of democracy. And when pressure is exerted on individual states to meet these criteria, then, ladies and gentlemen, I consider that, human nature being what is, this is absolutely necessary from the educational point of view.

In contrast to most people sitting here in this Chamber, I was a mediocre pupil at grammar school. If I had not been forced to do something, with a view to moving up to the next class, I should have done less work. If you no longer make the Maastricht Treaty’s convergence criteria a precondition for monetary union national parliaments and governments will say: why should we reduce our debts? The sensible solution is to impose certain conditions that educate them in the right direction. Educating a child is no different from educating those involved in international politics.

I do not see any danger to democracy here. On the contrary, I see a Europe that achieves more social stability and a Europe that is able to compete on the world markets, especially in Asia. I see greater social and economic stability, which will lead to more stability for our democracy.

As far as Turkey’s accession to the Customs Union is concerned, this is a question that I am not the right person to answer. I have always been in favour but I am not the Turkish prime minister – thank goodness. Turkish politicians must, of course, also make their own contributions, especially in the Council of Europe. Let me be clear on this: we Germans consider it highly desirable for the domestic political situation in Turkey – with regard to human rights and many other issues – to develop in such a way that Turkey can join the Customs Union.

In Germany we have more Turkish citizens than any other country. If I am not mistaken, based on the number of inhabitants Berlin is currently the city with the fourth or fifth largest Turkish population. We have millions of Turks in Germany who do excellent work and are highly regarded. Our problem is that domestic disputes in Turkey, such as those involving the Kurds and their individual groups, are being carried on in our country. Anything that contributes to calming the situation down and returning to normal is in Germany’s interests.

With regard to the question of agricultural policy, I have an answer that will surprise you: the best thing that can happen to European agricultural policy is for monetary union to come as quickly as possible. You will find – and this astonishes many people – that the greatest supporters of the early introduction of a European currency are the European farmers’ associations – and for good reason. We have not always taken a sensible course as far as European agricultural policy is concerned. It is a fact that farmers have had to bear the main burden in Europe, and this is quite wrong.

If we look back and consider the history of the European Community we come to the conclusion that its basic structure was doubtless mistaken. It was not right to lump steel, coal and agriculture together. However, those who did so assumed that the process of European unity would be much quicker. No one expected it to take decades. The farmers have therefore had a disproportionate burden to bear.

If we can keep to the timetable – I have spoken about this to representatives of the German farmers’ associations in the last few days – we shall be doing something sensible here. However, it is a fact that we could do a little more on the way. I also pointed this out at the weekend in Mallorca.

As a Polish colleague has asked about this, I shall say that if Poland itself wants to become a member of the European Union in the foreseeable future and if it has fulfilled the necessary preconditions something can, of course, be done in advance. We could, for example, allow a Polish speciality, the Christmas goose, to be imported into the European Union. We should, at any rate, not behave in such an egocentric manner that small Polish farmers cannot fail to get the impression that the members of the European Union would not dream of letting Poland in. There are many small areas in which we could do more without a conference having to be held every time.

The next question is one that I expected, of course: the question of the date for economic and monetary union. Ladies and gentlemen, I do not understand all the discussions about this. We have made clear agreements; we have a treaty in which the dates are mentioned. The treaty also states that we can only establish an economic and monetary union when the criteria are fulfilled. There are two things that come together, the preconditions and the timetable. I do not consider it at all wise to talk about changing the criteria at this early stage. Germany will not support this, let me make this quite clear.

Nor do I think it wise for us to “fiddle” with the timetable now. Why do we have to talk about something now that will not have to be discussed until the date laid down in the treaty? It will be a pretty nonsensical policy to demotivate people now and tell them or individual countries that “You have no chance; there’s no way you can meet the criteria”. I warn you not to underestimate the strength of a policy that, if it is implemented purposefully, can achieve a great deal.

When I attended my first European Union summit as Chancellor – this was in December 1982 – the most commonly used word in Europe was “Eurosclerosis”, a combination of “Europe” and the name of a terrible disease. I can still remember standing before journalists at the press conference that followed: they laughed at me and thought I was a dreamer. And now I am sitting among you and can state that we have established the Maastricht Treaty; we have established the single European market and achieved a lot more besides. I used only to hear people say, “That won’t work”.

You do not need to tell me how difficult all this is. Sometimes we must go a roundabout way; the direct route is not the one that leads to Europe. You must make a lot of detours; you must often make compromises to take account of national interests, people’s vanities, etc. Throughout history it has never been any different. However, when we set ourselves a goal we try to reach it. And if we sometimes cannot cross the mountain we must walk round it. But the goal must remain. I do not have the slightest doubt that we shall reach it.

I will tell you this, if we do not reach it we shall experience a relapse in Europe. Those who do not believe me should take the time at home to obtain newspapers from the year 1925, when Aristide Briand and Gustav Stresemann received the Nobel Prize for the Pact of Locarno, which brought about reconciliation between the Germans and the French. If you had asked a hundred people at that time in Berlin or Paris whether there would again be a war between Germany and France, ninety or ninety-five would have answered “Never again”. Eight years later Hitler came to power, and six years after that the second world war began. When Briand and Stresemann sat together on Lake Locarno they were able to look across the water into Italy, where Mussolini was already in power.

History, ladies and gentlemen, does not simply repeat itself; historical events are not identical, like a transparency made from a drawing, but the fundamental features of history have deep roots.

If I had spoken to you in this Chamber five years ago and we had said that this evening we should be watching the pictures from the former Yugoslavia that we shall inevitably be seeing, most of you here would have said it was unthinkable, and yet it has actually become a reality. However, let us not only take note of these terrible realities but consider whether we, as Europeans, should not contribute what is best from our history. After all, we have not only fought wars against each other. We are a large, old continent that has contributed to world history for thousands of years.

I did not say “thousands of years” without good reason. In five years’ time a new millennium will begin. A thousand years ago people ran into the streets and squares – there is a lot of evidence of this – and believed the world would be destroyed during the night. We do not have this belief, but we nevertheless do not have the right to believe that we cannot create anything positive in the new millennium, in the new century. How can we give our young people, our own children, hope for the future if all we do is persuade them the world is in decline? I cannot understand this attitude.

I am now sixty-five years old and find life more worth living as each day goes by. I pass this on to you.


We now have three more questions, from Mr Korakas, Mr Landsbergis and Mr Zingeris. I call Mr Korakas.

Mr KORAKAS (Greece) (translation)

Do you not think, Mr Chancellor, that on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the victory over fascism, your country should repay to Greece the compulsory loan that my country’s occupying government contracted in Rome on 14 March 1942?

Similarly, do you not think it is time to settle the question of compensating Greece for the damage and looting by the German occupying troops between 1941 and 1944?

Mr LANDSBERGIS (Lithuania)

Mr Chancellor, given your novel statement about Germany’s responsibility in the tragic fate of the Baltic states between 1939 and 1991, I cannot forget that on that same day in 1940 when the Soviets occupied Lithuania, the nazis occupied Paris, and after that our embassy there was turned over to the Soviet authorities. It continues to be occupied to this day.

I should like to express my hope that you will use your good offices to influence Moscow to be trustful and to remove one of the barriers to Russia’s European integration.

Mr ZINGERIS (Lithuania) (translation)

Chancellor, the German people has done a very great deal since the second world war to restore human dignity both in Germany and in Europe as a whole. There was a people in 1939 of whom 10 million spoke Yiddish. This language, this culture, was doubtless part of European culture. The National Socialists set up special groups to steal items belonging to this cultural heritage and bring them to the Third Reich.

In order to preserve our awareness of the unity of the history of Europe, I should like to ask you, Chancellor, what do you think must be done?

Mr Kohl, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (translation)

With regard to the question asked by the member from Greece I wish to point out that – you probably know this – we reached a final settlement as far as western Europe, to which Greece belongs, is concerned in the agreement signed in London many years ago.

I should like to take this opportunity to remind you of something. What I am about to say is not an apology for the barbaric acts committed by the nazis – the terrible things they did to human beings cannot be put right with money. It is a fact that up to 31 December 1994 Germany had paid 100 thousand million Deutschmarks in compensation – that’s right, 100 thousand million Deutschmarks. Although we cannot undo the terrible things that occurred we really have demonstrated our good will. This applies not least to our relationship with the Jews, to whom particularly dreadful things were done both by Germans and in the name of all Germans. When I was in Israel a few months ago this was very clearly said by both the President and the Prime Minister.

Mr Landsbergis, I have already said what needs to be said with respect to the Baltic states. For me it is absolutely clear that we must reach solutions together. We must not make threatening gestures to one another. We must take account of the special situation of the Baltic states and, in particular, of the people living there, who have memories of members of their own families, both those who remained and those who were deported to Siberia. All these things leave their mark. We cannot, therefore, just content ourselves with looking at the past and showing sympathy but must try to create a secure future in a free Europe-for the three Baltic peoples. However, we also need partners for this, and one of them is Russia. For me both belong together.

As far as I can see, Mr President, my speaking time has expired. In conclusion, may I say thank you for the discussion we have had. I am very impressed, Mr President, with the radical way you deal with the list of speakers. We can learn something from this in the Bundestag. If we were to do that the newspapers would, of course, call us people still living in the past and undemocratic. In your case, of course, this suspicion does not arise. That is why I am particularly impressed. Thank you for being kind enough to listen to what I have had to say.

Permit me, in conclusion, to repeat something I said earlier – I think you will believe me when I say I am not a person given to making unconsidered remarks – you can simply believe this when it is said by someone who has so much experience of life, including political life, as I have. Please do not let yourselves be influenced by the news we hear every day that the world is coming to an end; that the atmosphere will soon be destroyed; that all the forests are dying; and that the water will soon be undrinkable.

To be sure, we have tremendous problems in all these areas, and the question of the preservation of the rainforests in Indonesia and Brazil -I have spoken in the last few days to the Brazilian President about this – is one of the great challenges of our time. The climate of Strasbourg and the Rhine valley also depends on this. However, this must not prevent us from realising that we have far more opportunities at the end of this century than previous generations. I do not believe that we make use of our chances by concealing our joy. I do not believe that we make use of our chances by only thinking that this is the worst of all possible worlds. I just do not believe this.

At the beginning of the post-war period we had a play entitled Wir sind nock einmal davongekommen (We’ve escaped again). It was performed in 1947, and at Christmas that year there were more suicides than ever before in German history. That was 1947; it is now 1995.1 and millions of others lived through that period. A new generation has since grown up. Two-thirds of Germans living today were born and grew up after Hitler. There is no reason for us to give up, nor is there for you. I think it is a privilege to be able to sit in this Parliamentary Assembly.


Although I am coming to the end of my presidency, I have never before seen members of the Assembly standing to applaud a distinguished guest in that way. It was exceptional.

It is true that the President must rule over the proceedings very strictly, particularly on this occasion when so many members wanted to speak. Incidentally, if a German arrives here five minutes late that is okay – but a Spaniard cannot afford to do so. We must be absolutely on time.

I wish to express the Assembly’s gratitude for not only your performance today Chancellor Kohl but for everything that you have done for Europe in the past and are doing now. I thank you also for all that you are doing for the Council of Europe and for that which we expect you to do in future. Accordingly, we have decided to award you the pro merito medal with which we honour the most distinguished Europeans. I have chosen to award it to you in this Chamber rather than in my office, because you deserve more than that.

(The President then presented the Council of Europe’s pro merito medal to Chancellor Kohl.)