President Steinmeier's speech came at a time of uncertainly for Germany, and he touched on many of the issues weighing on the minds of many people in the country /Photo: Screenshot/Facebook

German president calls for unity in ‘state of nation’ speech

Frank-Walter Steinmeier has warned of “tougher years” ahead for Germany and also called for action on climate change and pledged support for Ukraine.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier delivered what has been dubbed a “state of the nation” speech on Friday (28 October) at his official residence, Bellevue Palace. The theme of his remarks was “what connects us makes us stronger.”

The speech came at a time of uncertainly for Germany, and Steinmeier touched on many of the issues weighing on the minds of many people in the country. These included a cost of living crisis amidst soaring inflation and an energy crunch, as well as the war in Ukraine.

Steimeier pledges German support for Ukraine
Indeed, Steinmeier opened with vivid descriptions of the horrors of war, noting that it had caused “the deepest crisis” that a reunified Germany has seen. He warned that “tougher, rough years are ahead of us.”

“One thing is clear: we will have to accept some financial constraints over the next few years. Most people have been feeling this for a long time. Everyone must contribute where they can. This crisis demands that we learn to be modest again,” he said as the poverty rate begins to climb throughout the country.

He stressed that this was to ask those who are able to make sacrifices to do so. He assured the public that the state would help those most in need as much as it possibly could.

Alluding to recent criticism that Germany is making decisions that puts itself first over EU allies, such as a recent energy rescue package, the president said that “I assure our partners: Germany accepts its responsibilities, in NATO, in Europe. This has been demonstrated by the security policy decisions taken by the German government since the historical turning point of February 24.”

Steinmeier calls for action on climate change
Steinmeier also touched on future challenges for Germany, particularly climate change.

“Without the fight against climate change, all of this is for nothing. This battle requires all our strength. Let’s prove our strength in changing now! Let’s enable our children and our children’s children to live well on our planet! It’s in our hands!”

Another present and future challenge, he said, was to protect democracy, from both domestic and foreign attacks.

“Democracy does not work without cohesion. And cohesion does not come about by itself. It has to be practiced. It is the result of people, of empathy, of responsibility and charity. Simply rejecting the idea that it isn’t necessary to engage socially is no answer to the challenges of our time,” the president said.

Chancellor, cabinet absent
Attending the talk were representatives from various government organizations, as well as NGOs, and young people from all around Germany. Noticeably absent from Schloss Bellevue, however, was Chancellor Olaf Scholz, also a member of Steinemeier’s Social Democrats (SPD). Indeed, none of Scholz’s Cabinet was attending, nor was Bundestag speaker Bärbel Bas, also of the SPD.

Steinmeier’s speech came shortly after his first visit to Kyiv since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. Early in the war, Steinmeier was criticized for his perceived soft stance on Moscow, including accusing NATO of “warmongering” against Russia in 2016 and supporting the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

The president has since expressed regret about those positions, and said that Russian President Vladimir Putin should stand trial for war crimes. On his visit to Kyiv, he said that Germany would “continue to support Ukraine, economically, politically and also militarily.”

es/rt (AFP, dpa)/© DW

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