On behalf of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung I would like to warmly welcome you to this event today.
At the very beginning I need to point out that this is my first visit to South Africa and that the 25-year anniversary of the speech delivered by the former State President FW de Klerk on 2 February 1990 before the South African Parliament and our joint event with the FW de Klerk Foundation today are indeed a very pleasant occasion for this journey. Thank you very much for inviting me to address you here in Cape Town today.
This conference focuses on the beginning of a new chapter in the history of South Africa in 1990, opened by the speech held by FW de Klerk on 2 February 1990. The year 1990 was a milestone also in the history of Germany. It was in that very same year that the GDR joined the constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany and thus the separation of Germany that had been effected after World War II came to an end. The people of the former GDR had courageously fought for freedom and democracy. After the fall of the wall in November 1989, re-unification was achieved one year later on 3 October 1990, a political objective that had been upheld by Christian democrats such as Konrad Adenauer and Helmut Kohl, even in times when others in East and West had long accepted the separation as a given fact.
In unified Germany we then had to work hard to ensure that the living conditions in both parts of Germany would be on a par. We needed patience and great trust in politics – and, of course, also convincing, responsible political leadership. Today, 70 years after the end of World War II and 25 years after German re-unification we can say with pride that we have succeeded in achieving unity and that united Germany has again become a leading power in Europe. We have also succeeded – and this was a very challenging task – to break down walls in the heads of people, so that Germany today is not only politically and economically united, but also socially and culturally. The citizens of South Africa – and in particular the youth – must learn that they, too, will only have a good future if they work together in mutual respect. It would be very daring to attempt drawing a parallel between the political and social developments of countries as different as South Africa and Germany. But we can rightfully say that both countries have made great achievements in the past 25 years. I am delighted that political roleplayers who have significantly and successfully contributed to South Africa being a democratic state under the rule of law today are among us at this conference.
Things could also have turned out very differently. I remember vividly that besides the euphoria in Germany over the end of apartheid, very concerned voices were heard that questioned whether South Africa would embark into a peaceful future. If we do wish to draw a parallel between the events of those days in South Africa and Germany, then we may say that the re-unification of Germany as well as the political change in South Africa were perceived by many as a step into the unknown, as one of the major and incalculable challenges in the history of our respective countries.