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Speech by Federal President Horst Köhler at the New Year Reception for the Diplomatic Corps

Der Bundespräsident spricht von einem Mikrofon aus. Berlin, 13 January 2010 Photo: Jürgen Gebhardt, BPA © Photo: Jürgen Gebhardt, BPA

"I would like to welcome you all most warmly to Schloss Bellevue.

Hopes for the new year are hopes for happiness. All around the world at the start of a new year, people wish for happiness. It is a moment in which the entire world is connected.

People who want to increase their happiness have to share it. During the 20th century, we Germans were given two historic opportunities. In 1949 after the disaster of World War II we were given the opportunity to start again, and in 1989 after the fall of the Berlin Wall we were given the opportunity to unite. Over the past year, millions of Germans celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Federal Republic of Germany - or in other words, 60 years of success­ful democracy, peace and prosperity - with friends from all around the world.

This year we have the chance to celebrate yet another wonderful anniversary: 20 years of Ger­man unity. The citizens of the former GDR first won their freedom and then together we made the dream of a unified Germany a reality - something we can all be happy about.

A willingness to roll up our shirtsleeves and solidarity have paid off. It was worth the effort. The former East German Länder have accomplished much; for example, building modern infrastructure, renovating city centres and dealing with environmental damage. Yet some people have been disappointed, and there are new issues to be concerned about, such as the continuous stream of young people leaving eastern Germany.

Of course Germany faces major challenges. Let me mention a few keywords: demographic change, ecological transformation, public debt. I am optimistic about my country's future. In the current crisis, industry has demonstrated resistance and the strength to renew itself. Young people are curious and eager to learn. Policymakers are capable of taking effective action.

As it happens, we have observed something interesting, particularly in eastern Germany. What was criticized as a handicap during reconstruction - a strong prevalence of small and medium-sized enterprises in East German industry - has turned out to be an advantage in the crisis and has curbed the effects of the economic slump. This showed us that companies which are less dependant on exports and well-integrated in regional economic cycles can be anchors of stability.

German political leaders always viewed German unity and the unification of Europe as two sides of the same coin. The Lisbon Treaty entered into force on 1 December 2009. That was a good day for Europe and, in my opinion, also for the world. What is important now, is to fill this treaty with life and further advance integration in the European Union. Notably, the treaty strengthens the European Union's capacity to act in foreign and security policy matters. It helps us Europeans to better live up to our responsibility to help overcome global challenges, including eliminating poverty around the world, safeguarding our natural environment and guaranteeing freedom. Europe can and must take on a stronger role in cooperative world politics.

We are hoping for convincing results at the Afghanistan Conference in London at the end of this month. Our soldiers and the forces of allied nations are engaged in a difficult battle in Afghanistan at the behest of the United Nations - for the sake of our own security and for the sake of universal human rights. I am grateful to the soldiers and to all the reconstruction workers for their service.

Don't we all want an Afghanistan that respects human rights and is able to chart its own path for the future? Do we have a well thought-out plan and the necessary strength and determin­ation to enable Afghanistan to realize these goals sustainably?

Concerning the financial and economic crisis that is not yet behind us, here too, we need more cooperation and greater determination in order to build a more effective international financial market order. An order that, to the best of our knowledge, prevents what we are now experi­encing from ever happening again. A liberal order that guarantees the primacy of public policy even in the international financial markets. And it is also a moral issue. How are we supposed to seriously believe that we will overcome this crisis when private financial actors themselves do not realize, or demand, that some measure of moderation must be guaranteed for the sake of the common good?

Issues of credibility are also relevant when it comes to development cooperation. The most urgent priority is to finally, after ten years, conclude the Doha Round. We need to do this in order to build confidence around the world, and we need to do this to prove that we are serious about fighting poverty by helping others to help themselves.

Many people had high hopes for the climate summit in Copenhagen. But disappointment can also serve as an incentive. I hope that the European Union does not abandon its ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions. Needless to say, the same goes for Germany. I am con­fident that leading by example will pay off, particularly in this case, in the form of a faster and better transformation of industry and society in Europe, in terms of new sources of income and jobs and ultimately a better life for Europe's citizens.

And I have faith in the new global players' common sense because they know that in the long term no one can focus exclusively on their own happiness without taking the interests of others into consideration. If we plan with foresight and act with common purpose, if, in the spirit of reconciliation and justice, we search for cooperative solutions in which everyone can play a part and which serve the common good, we can make globalization humane. The main forum for such action is the United Nations. That is why I ask you, ladies and gentlemen, to continue to support the efforts to find solutions to the global tasks facing humanity as well as to reform and strengthen the United Nations.

Ladies and gentlemen, in 2010 for the first time the FIFA World Cup will take place on the African continent, in South Africa. This sporting event will give many people the chance to discover Africa. They will discover a diverse Africa full of joie de vivre, an Africa that we Europeans could learn a thing or two from. For example, how to handle fragile history, fragile development, or most importantly how to look beyond the promise of material prosperity to find the things that can guide us, help us to find meaning and thereby happiness. And the Africans are good at football, too. I'm looking forward to a game between Germany and a strong African team in the finals.

I wish your nations, your Heads of State, you yourselves and your families all the very best and every happiness!"