My fellow citizens,
The year that lies behind us has been filled with highs and lows, happy moments and sad ones. Surely some very personal experience comes to mind for each of us. This evening I am thinking particularly of the extremely difficult political year that is drawing to a close today.
I know that many of you have struggled greatly with the Federal Government. First we took a long time to form a government at all, then even after we had done so, there was contention and we were highly preoccupied with ourselves.
It is my understanding as Chancellor that our democracy depends on a broadly shared understanding that our public officials are doing everything within their power on behalf of the domestic peace and cohesion of our country. And that these public officials are asking themselves from time to time what they personally can contribute to this.
I have asked myself this. And I have done it irrespective of how dissatisfying the past year has been, because having served as the Federal Chancellor for 13 years is quite fundamentally reason enough to do so.
At the end of October, I therefore ushered in a new start by saying that I would no longer hold any political office after the end of this electoral term.
Democracy thrives on change, and all of us must live in our own times. We build on what our predecessors have left us, and we shape the present for those who will come after us.
In doing this, I am guided by the conviction that we will only master the challenges of our time if we hold together and if we work with others across boundaries and borders.
To me, the images that our astronaut Alexander Gerst has sent us from the International Space Station in recent months are emblematic of this.
These images have repeatedly offered us new perspectives on our planet – on forces of nature such as hurricanes, which we humans must live with; on our central European landscapes, which looked brown rather than green during this unusually dry summer, even from outer space; and time and again, simply images of the overwhelming beauty of our earth.
We have this overwhelming beauty, and yet we also know how vulnerable the basis of our existence is – vulnerable in a broad sense.
There is the vital question of climate change, the crucial question of managing and organizing migration, the struggle against international terrorism.
We all want to resolve these questions in our own interest, and we can best do so if we also consider the interests of others.
This is the lesson of the two world wars of the last century. But today this conviction is no longer shared by all; what have been certainties of international cooperation are now coming under pressure. In such a situation, we must stand up more for our convictions; we must argue and fight for them. And in our own interest, we must assume more responsibility.
Beginning tomorrow, Germany will serve as a member of the UN Security Council for two years, and there we will advocate for global solutions. We are further increasing our funding for humanitarian aid and development assistance, but also our defence spending.
We are advocating for making the European Union more robust and more capable of making decisions. And we want to maintain a close partnership with the United Kingdom despite its exit from the European Union.
By participating in the European election in May, you can contribute to the European Union’s future as a project of peace, prosperity and security.
My fellow citizens,
But above all, it is here at home that we must work for prosperity, security and peace.
Millions of people readily devote themselves to the service of society. On this New Year’s Eve, I especially thank all the police officers, the soldiers, the many emergency responders, and all those who care for others in hospitals and in nursing care, as well as the millions who volunteer their time.
To secure jobs, prosperity, and the foundations of our life, the Federal Government is consistently taking the next steps of structural change from traditional technologies to new ones and implementing its strategy for digital progress.
Through our work for equal living conditions, we want everyone to be provided with good access to education, housing and health care – in rural areas as well as in cities.
Here we are striving for the best substantive solutions. Ever more frequently, however, we are also contending for our way of living together and for our values of openness, tolerance and respect.
These values have made our country strong. We must stand up for them together – even when it is uncomfortable and arduous.
Good new things can arise when we believe in our values and implement our ideas vigorously. The powers that we need to solve problems step by step and thereby to lay the groundwork for a peaceful, secure future for ourselves and our children can grow out of this. I wish all of us the courage to do this, and I wish you and your families all the best for a healthy, happy and blessed new year in 2019.