The main celebrations on the day of German Unity began early in the morning with an ecumenical church service in Kiel’s St. Nikolai Church. Under the motto "God’s strength renews " the service was attended by almost the entire German government, representatives of the federal states and high-ranking representatives of the Bundestag, Bundesrat and Federal Constitutional Court.
A good atmosphere and no rain
Earlier in the day the red carpets had already been rolled out for top politicians. Kiel’s naval band played in front of the maritime museum on the waterfront before Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Chancellor Angela Merkel, Federal Constitutional Court President Andreas Voßkuhle, Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble und Schleswig-Holstein’s state premier Daniel Günther, currently Bundesrat President, signed the city’s golden book.
And even the weather did it’s bit. After the pouring rain of the day before, visitors today enjoyed crisp autumnal temperatures with only a few fleecy clouds in the sky.
Full house in the German government marquee
Federal Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer got things off to a start as the first of the many and varied guests in the German government marquee. She reported on her visit that morning to the frigate Schleswig-Holstein, named after the state headed by Daniel Günther. At the weekend she will be flying out to Mali to visit the troops there, reported the minister.
During a discussion, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer looked back at the fall of the Berlin Wall, thirty years ago, which she watched with her husband on television at home in Saarland. Even today the memory of this unbelievable moment, "still gives her goosepimples and brings a tear to her eye". In this context she praised the work of the Bundeswehr in reunifying Germany. "Almost 30 years ago, two armies were brought together. Overnight opponents became comrades."
In her closing remarks to the visitors, most of whom came from Kiel, the minister stressed two things: "First, enjoy today’s celebrations! The day of German Unity is a day of joy and a day to celebrate. And secondly, when you see soldiers, speak to them – ask them questions – it does them good to be appreciated, because they are part of our society."
Citizens discuss with the Vice Chancellor
Next on the high-ranking guest list was Vice Chancellor and Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz. In an open discussion with a capacity crowd of citizens in the marquee, a number of issues were raised: climate action, ending the use of coal, renewables, the government’s Africa policy and the focus on balancing the budget without any new borrowing.
Olaf Scholz made it perfectly clear that he stood firmly behind the climate action goals adopted by the German government. "We must stop generating power from coal," he said to the approval and applause of the visitors. Stopping climate change is a "huge and very serious responsibility".
The intensive discussion closed with a very special highlight. The Federal Finance Minister presented Stephan Meyer, State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of the Interior with the brand new two-euro coin to mark the Day of German Unity. This "small contribution" is intended symbolically at least to go some way to establishing comparable living conditions across Germany.
The commemorative coin is to be available officially as of 19 October. It is also legal tender. The special coin was designed by a French artist. In this way France and Germany are together celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall and reunification – in a spirit of Franco-German friendship.
Spotlight on children’s rights and climate research
The discussion round with Federal Minister for Family Affairs Franziska Giffey had one key theme – children’s rights. Initiated by the Kinderschutzbund, an NGO that campaigns for children and their rights, the event gave Lea, Carlotta and Mia the opportunity to discuss their rights with the minister and to ask her questions. The wholly female round was supported at the end by Freddy, the family eagle. The mascot of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs was also in action at the people’s party, and was much photographed by young and old alike.
The discussion with Federal Research Minister Anja Karliczek focused on climate-related research and the latest Arctic expedition. In mid-September the German research ship, the "Polarstern" set off for the Arctic with 64 scientists and well over 1000 pieces of scientific equipment on board. The international research team is on its way to the northern pack ice where it is to set up camp and establish a network of measuring stations.
Hosts well satisfied
At the end of the day the German government was able to welcome the host of the celebrations, Schleswig-Holstein’s state premier Daniel Günther to the stage. "I am proud to have played a part in organising the celebrations, as state premier of Schleswig-Holstein," he declared. He couldn’t have hoped for a better year to be President of the Bundesrat. With a view to German Unity he stressed, "We simply must share this joy." He was very happy with the public response on this day. It’s even busier than the annual "Kieler Woche" sailing competition. The motto "Courage brings us together" was very well chosen since it can serve as the link between the events of the period immediately after the Berlin Wall fell and the challenges facing us today.