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Address by Federal President Horst Köhler at the New Year Reception for the Diplomatic Corps in Schloss Bellevue

Bundespräsident Horst Köhler Berlin, 15 January 2009 Photo: Bernd Kühler, Presse- und Informationsamt der Bundesregierung (BPA) © Photo: Bernd Kühler, Presse- und Informationsamt der Bundesregierung (BPA)

Nuncio, Ambassadors, Representatives of international organizations, Germany and the Germans are united with you in the common desire for a ceasefire in the Middle East - and for peace.

That is what I would like to say first today.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I first bid you all a very warm welcome to Schloss Bellevue.

2009 will be a special year for us Germans. The Federal Republic of Germany will be turning 60. And we will be marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Germans can celebrate this dual anniversary in freedom and unity. For that we are thankful and glad. We have learned how precious freedom is. And we have learned to make good use of it. Germans have built up a stable democracy and an economic order which combines freedom and competition with social justice. And 20 years ago people in the former GDR, together with the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe succeeded after many failed attempts in peacefully sweeping away the Iron Curtain and in bringing down the Berlin Wall. Since then, we in Germany have been working together to tackle the consequences of division and to become a force for good in the world. We want to celebrate all of that - together with our friends all over the world who have supported us along the way.

Today, Germany promotes "world peace as an equal partner in a united Europe". This maxim was included in our constitution, the Basic Law, by its authors in 1949. We can say with quiet self-confidence that we have remained true to this commitment during the last 60 years. Since 1949 we have gradually assumed ever more international responsibility. In a spirit of partnership, Germany has worked together with other nations to further European integration. Our country has stepped up its commitment to the United Nations and to development cooperation. Our partners can rely on Germany.

In common with all states in the international community, my country faces difficult challenges in 2009 as a result of the international financial and economic crisis. I don't think much of negativism, not even when it comes in the shape of historical comparisons. Today we are experiencing a different scenario to that of the global economic crisis of the 1930s. The G20 conference held in Washington on 15 November showed that the international community is aware of the challenge and can act together. We can build on that.

Yesterday the Federal Government adopted vigorous measures aimed at strengthening the German economy. They underpin the efforts of the European Union, as well as those of the international community, to tackle the global recession. In the autumn, Germany made a swift and resolute contribution towards mastering the crisis and ensuring international stabilization with its Financial Market Stabilization Act.

The simultaneous downturn in the economy throughout the world means that emerging economies and developing countries must be fully involved in global crisis management. Their global importance has grown and we all depend on each other due to the high level of interconnectedness between our economies. Multilateral surveillance by the international financial institutions is more necessary than ever before. They have to be willing and able - whenever necessary - to provide fast and unbureaucratic assistance. They should present a plan for a global programme of forward-looking investment in the spheres of infrastructure, ecology and education to the member states for adoption at their spring meeting. And the most important thing of all is - and this is the lesson we learned from the economic crisis in the last century - that the international community rejects protectionism and self-absorption.

The crisis is also an opportunity. It's an opportunity because it has heightened awareness of how much nations depend on one another and how important joint action therefore is. That should pave the way for shaping a better globalization. If this is to be achieved in the best possible way, careful analysis of the root causes of the crisis is important. This analysis is still to be carried out.

In my view, there are four central spheres when it comes to tackling the crisis:

First of all, we have to create a new regulatory framework for the international financial markets. It must be marked by common values and the will not to leave any spheres unsupervised. I believe it's right to entrust a reformed International Monetary Fund with the task of monitoring the stability of the international financial system.

Second, a central, underlying cause of the crisis were global economic imbalances. We need a political process which ensures that these imbalances are eliminated and cannot re-emerge in this form.

Third, fighting global poverty and climate change must be anchored as strategic goals, and thus as a cross-cutting task, in all areas of international cooperation. We need an overall concept for a development strategy for the entire planet, also for development in industrialized countries. The conclusion of the Doha Round for a development-friendly multilateral trading system in the first half of this year would be an inestimably important confidence-building signal in favour of cooperation and against protectionism. At any rate, the international financial crisis must not be used as a pretext to curtail development cooperation. Nor should it be used as a pretext to slow down the worldwide reorientation towards renewable energies and increase in energy and resources efficiency.

Fourth, we as a global community must agree on a common ethos, that is to say on a fundamental consensus on "binding values, irrevocable standards, and personal attitudes" (Hans Küng). One basic principle for this is: we should only treat others as we ourselves want to be treated. Moreover, I believe that the financial crisis proves right those business leaders who are guided by the idea that ethical principles and durable economic values are compatible with competition and profitability.

The scale of the crisis requires a new way of thinking. I have proposed a new Bretton Woods to this end. It could take place in China.

The opportunity offered by this crisis is the creation of a new cooperative world order. That is the task which derives from the interlinking of all states and nations on our planet. Even the world's most powerful nations have to realize that they cannot defend their interests successfully on their own. National interests such as security, prosperity and stability can only be realized in the 21st century through own efforts and through better cooperation among nations.

Egoism today therefore means caring about others too. We have to understand that today responsible state sovereignty not only entails obligations towards one's own citizens but also towards other states.

If we succeed more than hitherto in defining common ground and in acting accordingly, then the crisis can lead us to a new, innovative policy: a global policy in a spirit of cooperation, which doesn't merely serve isolated national interests but also advances the global common good in a lasting and comprehensive manner, thus ensuring a bright common future. There can be no more important or legitimate forum for building this cooperative world order than the United Nations. Strengthening this organization for this task and making it more efficient is in the interests of us all. I know this road will be long and difficult. But I don't see a better alternative.

It has become apparent in the course of this crisis that we in Europe are also held together and protected by a common currency, the euro. The success story of the European Union shows it's possible to guarantee peace, to gain influence in the world and to enhance prosperity by committing to cooperation and learning to share sovereignty. We Europeans should bring this experience with self-confidence into the work on a new world order. Germany will continue to build on European integration, thus also enabling Europe to help shape our one world by speaking even more than hitherto with one voice.

I am confident that we can succeed in building a better future for everyone together. For that, ladies and gentlemen, I ask you personally for your support. For we need facilitators, ambassadors in the truest sense of the word, who can help through their work to make the 21st century the century of cooperative world politics.

I wish you, your families and your staff a happy New Year. We're delighted to have you as our guests.