Tuesday, November 3, 2009
German Chancellor Angela Merkel marked the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall by exhorting the world in a speech to Congress on Tuesday to "tear down the walls of today" and reach a deal to combat global warming.
Following are the remarks by President Obama and Merkel, as released by the White House:
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Hello, everybody. Well, I'm just going to make a brief statement. I am thrilled to have Chancellor Merkel here today. I want to congratulate her again for her victory in her recent election, the formation of a government, and we are honored to have her visit the Oval Office.
But the main reason she's here is that a great honor has been bestowed upon her. She is going to be the first German chancellor in 50 years to address Congress -- the first chancellor ever to address a joint session of Congress. And it is, I think, a very appropriate honor that's been bestowed on Chancellor Merkel. Obviously the alliance between the United States and Germany has been an extraordinary pillar of the transatlantic relationship.
We are now moving towards the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down and Germany being reunified after so many painful years. And this is a special moment for Chancellor Merkel, as somebody who grew up in East Germany, who understands what it's like to be under the shadow of a dictatorial regime, and to see how freedom has bloomed in Germany, how it has become the centerpiece for a extraordinarily strong European Union.
I think all of these things converge, and we are very pleased that she's going to be here to spread her view of what's taking place in the world, the many challenges we face, to members of Congress and the American people.
I should just note that Germany has been an extraordinarily strong ally on a whole host of international issues. We appreciate the sacrifices of German soldiers in Afghanistan, and our common work there to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan and to create the environment in which the Afghan people themselves can provide for their own security.
Chancellor Merkel has been an extraordinary leader on the issue of climate change. And the United States, Germany, and countries around the world I think are all beginning to recognize why it is so important that we work in common in order to stem the potential catastrophe that could result if we continue to see global warming continuing unabated.
And on economic issues, on issues like nuclear proliferation, consistently I found Chancellor Merkel to be thoughtful, to be energetic, and to have a strong vision of how we can move forward in the future.
So I am very pleased to be working with her as a partner. We are thankful, Chancellor, for your leadership not just in Europe but around the world. And I'm looking forward to many more years in which the American people and the German people are working together to expand the boundaries of freedom and to create prosperity for ordinary men and women on both sides of the Atlantic.
So thank you so much for coming.
CHANCELLOR MERKEL: (Speaking in German.)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think what she said was good. (Laughter.) I'm teasing.
CHANCELLOR MERKEL: (As translated.) First of all, I would like to thank you very much for the opportunity to be able to be here again today. I would also like to say that it is obviously a very great honor for me to address today the joint session of Congress, both houses of Congress, as it were.
But I'm also very much looking forward to having an exchange of view with the President again. We have always had very intensive discussions and we're going to have those today again on issues that are of mutual interest to us and that we have been working on almost daily. We are working and discussing issues, for example, related to climate change, Afghanistan, Iran, and obviously also the world economic situation.
But I wanted to use this opportunity today also to express our gratitude, my gratitude, to the American people for the support that the American people have given us throughout the process leading up to German reunification, and I think it something that I would like to later on say it very clearly also in my speech to both houses of Congress. And let me tell you that this is something that we, the Germans, shall never forget.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: All right, thank you guys.