In an op-ed published in 26 EU countries as Germany heads into a week of commemorations marking the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9, 1989, Heiko Maas said that the events 30 years ago spelled the end of Germany's decades-long division during the Cold War.
But he said the wall's fall didn't occur in a vacuum and Germany owed thanks not only to the hundreds of thousands of East Germans who protested peacefully against the communist regime, but also to democracy activists in other Eastern bloc countries like Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, and leaders on both sides of the ideological divide who paved the way to German re-unification.
"German unity was also a gift from Europe to Germany — at the end of a century in which Germans had brought unimaginable suffering to this continent," he wrote. "This gives rise to an obligation for us, namely to complete the project that is the unification of Europe — building a Europe that lives up to the values and dreams of those who took to the streets in 1989 to fight for freedom and democracy."
He noted that Germany assumes the rotating European Union presidency next year as Britain prepares to leave — the first country to ever leave the bloc — and as "saving the euro and the endless dispute about taking in and distributing refugees have opened up new rifts" among EU nations.
At the same time, Maas said, more people are turning to populist parties with nationalist agendas, who "believe less Europe is better for us." He urged greater cooperation instead, saying "none of us can cope with the four major worldwide challenges — globalization, climate change, the digital transformation and migration — by ourselves."
"Exhortations from individual European capitals fall on deaf ears in Moscow, Beijing and, unfortunately, to an increasing extent also in Washington, D.C.," Maas said. "It is only Europe's voice that carries decisive weight."
Follow AP's full coverage of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall at https://www.apnews.com/FalloftheBerlinWall