Democracy needs ‘courage and cooperation,’ says German president

BERLIN- German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier called on citizens to embrace democracy, rather than turn their backs on it, in a Christmas address coming at the close of a turbulent year.

“Yes, we yearn for clarity. Yes, it is reasonable to expect those in positions of political responsibility to struggle for the right course, but also to give answers that help us as a country,” said Steinmeier.

“You as citizens should be able to expect democrats to work together when what is at stake is our common whole,” Steinmeier told the public.

His reference to democrats comes amid growing support for the far right in Germany, and burgeoning discontent with the government.

“Many have missed that. Some turn away, others complain about everything and everyone,” he said, in a speech shared in advance by his office.

But in a democracy, “when the going gets tough, there are better counsellors than anger and contempt,” Steinmeier said.

“Better counsellors than those who pretend that there is always one simple answer to the questions of the future. They include courage and cooperation,” he added.

It is also important to keep everyone in mind, young and old alike, whether they come from Germany or other countries, the German president said.

“We will only ever make progress if we work together – and not if everyone shrinks back into their own worlds.”

Recent months have been especially turbulent in Germany. Just weeks before the turn of the year, a landmark court ruling left the coalition government of Chancellor Olaf Scholz scrambling to find ways to plug a huge budget gap.

Germany’s Constitutional Court ruled in mid-November that €60 billion ($66 billion) in emergency loans to combat the coronavirus pandemic could not be reallocated to a climate fund, sending the Berlin government’s budget planning into disarray.

Meanwhile, the growing strength of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which has traditionally been on the fringes of German politics, has raised alarm among many who view the party as extremist, anti-democratic and xenophobic.

The year leaves with many unresolved issues in Germany, Steinmeier noted. “Some people are looking sceptically at government and politicians. And some are worried about the future.”

With Russia’s war on Ukraine and the war in the Middle East, 2023 presented its dark side, Steinmeier said, pointing to “images of suffering and destruction, images of hatred and violence.”

“My wish for you today and in the days ahead is that you can close
your front door and enjoy this time with your loved ones,” Steinmeier said.

He also thanked those working on Christmas to enable people to celebrate “safely and in peace,” mentioning the police, fire brigade and armed forces.

He also paid tribute to those working “in hospitals, care homes and other institutions that look after people even on this day – people who are in distress, people with no roof over their heads. Thank you for being there.”

Steinmeier said people who are committed to community gave him strength and courage. “They bring warmth to our country,” he said.

Next year, Germany celebrates the 75th anniversary of its democracy, he added, noting the constitution is something to be proud of. “I want to encourage us all to trust in this foundation,” also in the future, he said. “Germany is and remains a good country.” (dpa/NAN)

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