Podium: Helmut Kohl - Germany's special relationship with Israel

From a recent speech given by the former German Chancellor to the Weizmann Institute of Science, in Israel
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The Independent Culture
I REMEMBER WITH particular gratitude and emotion the establishment of diplomatic relations more than 30 years ago between the Federal Republic of Germany and Israel. For the state of Israel this step was anything but obvious. Indeed, it required a quite special courage to move close to Germany just a few years after the Holocaust, a crime that is without parallel in history.

For us, the lesson is that the demon of National Socialism must be fought everywhere and always. The activities of anti-Semitic organisations and persecution of minorities, which can still be seen in Europe, are proof that we have many hurdles to overcome. But we are on the right path towards building a Europe that is a pluralistic society - a continent with open borders and respect for all.

This model for Europe has been a crucial goal of German foreign policy since the time of Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. He was convinced that for historical reasons, special importance had to be given to relations with three countries in particular: France, Poland and the new state of Israel. This has been a guiding principle of our foreign policy ever since.

From 8 May 1945 onwards, European unity has been the overriding task, and that fact has not been changed by the reunification of Germany. For me, Konrad Adenauer's metaphor still applies: that the unity of Germany and the unification of Europe remain as two sides of the same coin.

Germany has more neighbours than any other European state, and what happens to our neighbours is of immediate concern to us, and vice versa. It is for that reason that continuing the process of European unification is an elementary national interest to Germany.

But it is also important that the European Union charts a clear course towards enlargement. The unification of our continent will be complete only when those countries of Central and Eastern Europe who so wish have joined the EU. Our duty is to see that the European Union continues to move in this direction.

Thanks to European unification, we have already managed to live for 50 years in peace and freedom. A new and stronger community is growing on top of the deep trenches left by centuries of European wars.

After the end of the Cold War, many people in Europe hoped that peace could be assured for all time. Though I never believed that Man could definitively exorcise the dark side of his nature, it was painful to have to watch the dreadful images from Kosovo earlier this year. But the events in Yugoslavia have made something else clear - Europe's lack of what can truly be called a common foreign and security policy. In future the Mediterranean, too, will be of central importance to this common policy.

It goes without saying that the states of this region [the Middle East] must each contribute to a just and lasting peace. But the further process of European unification also implies that stronger ties between our two regions will emerge. Peace, economic expansion and social justice are issues that will occupy all of us in the years ahead. That is why I note with concern the continuing social divisions within and among the Arab countries.

Political extremism has always flourished where the dominating elements are poverty and overpopulation. Political extremism in turn generates exclusion, hatred and violence. Already far too many men, women and children have suffered for these reasons. It is therefore essential to work for economic, political and social stability in so vital a region. Israel has a key role vis-a-vis the European Union, and co-operation between the two sides must be developed further.

Nor must we forget the cultural and intellectual links between our peoples. History teaches us that dialogue between religions always serves the interests of peace. For that reason Muslims, Christians and Jews must talk to each other. A lasting peace can be achieved only when the three great monotheistic religions, which have their origin in this region, are mindful of all of their common roots.