My fellow citizens,
A year ago, on New Year’s Eve 2014, we looked back on a year that was unfortunately marked by far too many wars and crises.
Some of these crises, such as the Ebola outbreak in Africa, have now faded from the headlines. But other troubles that weighed on us in 2014 have remained just as current this year, sadly. Among these are the war in Syria and the savage killings by the terrorist organisation IS.
A year ago on New Year’s Eve I said that one consequence of these wars and crises is that the world currently has more refugees than at any time since the Second World War. Many of these refugees are literally fleeing death. It goes without saying that we will help them, and that we will take in people who seek refuge here.
This evening I am repeating this thought because there has rarely been a year that has so greatly challenged us to turn our words into deeds. This is the kind of year that 2015 has been.
That is why the two words I would most like to say on this New Year’s Eve are thank you.
Thank you for the overwhelming and truly moving wave of spontaneous readiness to help that we experienced this year as so many people were undertaking perilous journeys to seek refuge here.
I thank the countless volunteer helpers for their warm-heartedness and devotion, which will always be connect-ed with the year 2015.
I thank all of the full-time helpers, I thank all of the police officers and soldiers for their service, and I thank the employees of the federal, Länder and local authorities. What all of you are doing goes far, far beyond the call of duty.
All of you, both volunteer and full-time helpers, have contributed something extraordinary together – and you are continuing to do so, even right at this moment.
There is no question that the influx of so many people will still demand more from us. It will take time, effort and money – especially when it comes to the very important task of integrating those who will be remaining here permanently.
Here we want to, and must, learn from the mistakes of the past. Our values, our traditions, our understanding of the law, our language, our rules and regulations – all of these things undergird our society and are the fundamental re-quirements for the positive and mutually respectful coex-istence of all the people in our country. This applies to everyone who wants to live here. Successful immigration, however, benefits a country—economically as well as socially.
There is also no doubt that our country has already mastered many major challenges, and has grown as it has met these challenges.
This year on 3 October, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of German unity. Is it not marvellous to see how far we have come in 25 years?
We have grown together as a nation. We now have the lowest unemployment rate and the highest gainful occupation level since reunification. For two years in a row, the federal government has not incurred any new debt. Real wages are growing and the economy is robust and innovative.
I am confident that if we handle it right, the current major challenge of the arrival and integration of so many people will also present an opportunity in the future, because we have superb citizen engagement and a comprehensive concept for our political measures.
We are working nationally, in Europe and internationally to improve the protection of European external borders, to turn illegal migration into legal migration and to combat the causes of flight and thereby noticeably reduce the number of refugees – sustainably and permanently.
Germany is also making a major contribution to the fight against IS terrorism. Our soldiers are risking life and limb to defend our values, our security and our freedom. For this I say to them: I thank you with all my heart.
Next year, too, one thing will be especially crucial: our cohesion. It is important for us always to listen to others’ arguments even if those people weigh concerns and op-portunities differently than we do ourselves.
It is important for us not to let ourselves be divided. Not by generation, and also not socially or into the categories of long-time residents and new residents.
It is important for us not to follow those with coldness or hatred in their hearts who seek to claim German identity for themselves alone and to exclude others.
It is important for us to keep wanting to be a country where we are self-assured and free, compassionate and open-minded – with the joy of success and the joy of giv-ing our best.
Businesses, workers and employers are giving their best, enabling the strength of the social market economy to continue to develop, and so too are the fields of science, art and culture: simply everyone in their own lives.
And of course also sports, when our athletes compete for medals and personal bests next year at the Olympic and Paralympic Games, or when our football world champions strive for the European Championship trophy in France.
My fellow citizens,
It is true that we are living in unusually challenging times. But it also true that we can make it through these challenges because Germany is a strong country.
On that note, I wish for us all to share good health, strength, confidence and God’s blessings in the New Year 2016.