‘New Wall’ Warning Clouds 30th Anniversary since Fall of Berlin Wall in Germany, Europe
The presidents of the Visegrad Four Central European states have been the most high-profile foreign guests of the event.
Germany and Europe celebrated on Saturday the 30th anniversary since the fall of the Berlin Wall with a somber mood and warnings of a “new wall”.
On the evening of November 9, 1989, East German border guards were forced by large crowds to open the gates to West Berlin, allowing free passage for the first time since the Berlin Wall was erected back in 1961.
The development had an immediate effect throughout the Soviet satellites across Eastern Europe leading to soft revolutions against the ruling communist regimes and their dictators. West and East Germany were formally reunited a year later, while the Soviet Union fell apart two years after that.
Germany’s state leaders, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Chancellor Angela Merkel, were joined by the presidents of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia for the celebrations in Berlin on Saturday night.
Observers have been quick to comment that the 30th anniversary for the fall of the Berlin Wall has been celebrated far less cheerfully than the 20th a decade ago. The rise of the far right as well as challenges to the rule of law and democracy in Eastern Europe have been mentioned as the main culprits.
Even the 25th anniversary in 2014 has been deemed more remarkable because of the presence of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and ex-Polish president and freedom icon Lech Walesa.
“A new wall has arisen that cuts through our country—a wall of frustration, a wall of anger and hate,” German President Steinmeier said in his speech, as cited by AFP and France24.
“Walls that are invisible but which divide. Walls that stand in the way of our cohesion,” he warned, as he called on Germans to “tear down these walls, at long last.”
Earlier on Saturday, Steinmeier and the presidents of central European countries placed roses in the cracks of a remaining section of the Wall still standing in the north of central Berlin.
“[The Berlin Wall reminds] us that we have to do our part for freedom and democracy,” stated in turn Chancellor Angela Merkel at a ceremony in a church standing in the former dividing line of Berlin.
“The values upon which Europe is founded… they are anything but self-evident. And they must always be lived out and defended anew,” she declared.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Germany dedicated to the anniversary ended on Friday, while French President Emmanuel Macron was only planning a flying visit on Sunday.
“[The United States] will continue working with Germany, one of our most treasured allies, to ensure that the flames of freedom burn as a beacon of hope and opportunity for the entire world to see,” read the official message from US President Donald Trump.
In his speech, German President Steinmeier recalled America’s role in the fall of the Berlin Wall, including the late American president Ronald Reagan’s cry of “tear down this wall” at the iconic Brandenburg Gate.
“This America as a mutually respectful partner, as a partner for democracy and freedom, against national egoism—that is what I hope for in the future too,” said Steinmeier.
(Banner image: German Presidency)