Today we are celebrating Germany‘s reunification. On 3rd October 1990, the reunification of the eastern and western part of Germany became reality, after the fall of the Berlin wall paved the way for a historic reunification not only for Germany, but also for Europe. Ambassador Peer Gebauer, what does this day mean to Germany and its people?
The Day of German Unity commemorates the peaceful reunification of Germany 32 years ago. This reunification is a historic stroke of luck for us Germans, which would not have been possible without our close partnership with our friends in Europe and America. Courageous women and men in the former GDR and many Eastern European countries, including here in Romania, played a key role in this regard. They stood up for democracy and freedom. We owe them a great debt of gratitude.
We all remember the moving pictures when the Berlin wall came down in November 1989 and people were celebrating on the streets. How did you personally experience this time?
Indeed, it was a truly historic moment and I was very moved to see history in its making. I was 18 years old back then and followed the developments very closely. A few weeks after the fall of the Berlin wall, I travelled from my hometown Stuttgart to Berlin to experience this exceptional moment by myself. I still vividly remember sitting on the Berlin wall and, together with hundreds of others, knocking out small pieces from it as a souvenir. I have kept these “originals” until this day.
You came to Bucharest as an Ambassador last summer and a lot has happened since then. War has returned to Europe with Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Increasing energy prices and high inflation are putting an immense burden on millions of people. Looking back, how were your first impressions of Romania, especially in these challenging times for Europe?
It is a true privilege to serve as German Ambassador to Romania. My first 15 months in this country have been wonderful and enriching. I was received with openness and friendship, met many interesting people. And I was able to travel and to enjoy the beauty of Romania, experiencing first hand its diversity as well as its rich culture, traditions, and gorgeous nature. The hospitality and friendship I experienced was impressing, wherever I travelled to. This makes me look forward to my next years here.
Of course, this first year in Romania has also been a challenging one. The first months were overshadowed by the pandemic, with a corona wave severely affecting Romania in fall of 2021. And since 24th February, our life has been turned upside down. Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine marks a despicable turning point in Europe’s modern history. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has rightly spoken of a “Zeitenwende”, a turn of eras. We condemn this brutal aggression, this blatant violation of the international legal order, in the strongest possible terms. We will continue to support Ukraine and the Ukrainian people for as long as it is necessary.
A unified Europe and European Union are of utmost importance during these trying times. I am proud to see that Europe has stood together in solidarity so far and does not allow itself to be divided. Especially the people of Romania have shown a remarkable willingness to help and have taken in well over a million Ukrainian refugees in recent months, which is extraordinary.
You are also celebrating 30 years of the German-Romanian Friendship Treaty this year. Shortly after the reunification of Germany, both our countries concluded the Treaty on Friendly Cooperation and Partnership in Europe on 21st April 1992. What does this mean and how do you celebrate this special anniversary year?
This means a great deal to us and I am pleased that we were able to mark this special anniversary with a series of high-level political visits. The highlight was certainly the visit by Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier to Bucharest on 4th May. Also visits by the President of the German Bundesrat Bodo Ramelow, Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and numerous other ministers and members of parliament underlined, how close our partnership has become and how much we value Romania as an important partner in the European Union and NATO.
Therefore, we will celebrate the German Day of Unity under the motto “30 Years of German-Romanian Friendship and Partnership in Europe” this year. Together we have achieved a lot over these past three decades. Today, Germany and Romania are close political partners in the European Union and trustworthy allies in NATO. The Friendship Treaty continues to form the basis of our strong political, economic, and cultural cooperation in a united Europe.
It encompasses far more than the political level, first and foremost our excellent economic relations. Germany is Romania’s most important trading partner and biggest investor; more than 7,500 German companies are successfully operating in Romania.
Above all, our friendship and partnership is supported by our close social and cultural ties. Of course, the German minority in Romania plays a central role in this as does the growing number of Romanians living in Germany, who are an outstanding cultural, linguistic and human bridge between our societies. We would like to strengthen our friendship further, especially among the younger generation, e.g. by supporting the learning of the German language and German education as well as scholarship and exchange programs.
We are thankful that we are also able to celebrate our friendship and partnership, which goes back of course much longer than 30 years, with a series of cultural and other events. I would like to thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania and all our partners for their contribution.
Speaking of common achievements and coming back to the importance of standing together as a unified European Union – how have Germany and Romania worked together in the current crisis.
Romania played a very important and constructive role as European partner. I would like to express my deep gratitude to the Romanian Government and the Romanian people for their outstanding contribution to our joint efforts when it comes to offering shelter to refugees from Ukraine or being a hub for humanitarian assistance as well as for exporting Ukrainian grain. In addition, Romania, Germany and France have closely cooperated in supporting the Republic of Moldova, by establishing an international Support Platform in order to generate international assistance.
One main issue for the Romanian government is the accession to Schengen and the end of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism. Will Germany continue to support Romania in this endeavour?
We clearly see and acknowledge Romania’s strive for ending the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism and becoming a full member of Schengen. As rule of law and the fight against corruption are key marks in this respect, we fully encourage our Romanian friends to move ambitiously forward when it comes to judicial reforms. As to Schengen, Romania has fulfilled the technical prerequisites for accession to Schengen for years now and the way Romania has handled the recent humanitarian crisis at its borders was exceptional. Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz also underlined in his recent speech about Europe that Romania fulfils all technical requirements and that he will work to see Romania become a full member.