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Opinion piece by President Michael D. Higgins

Opinion piece by
President Michael D. Higgins
On the occasion of the State Visit to the Federal Republic of Germany

As published by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 3 July 2019


Ireland and Germany enjoy a strong partnership based on shared European values of tolerance, respect for human rights and commitment to the United Nations and the multilateral world order. I hope that my State visit to Germany this week will reinforce these shared beliefs and celebrate the enduring links between the Irish and the German people. Ireland is an island on the edge of Europe, Germany lies at the centre of our continent but neither geography nor size need constrain our capacity for cooperation.

As President of Ireland, I appreciate the stability and strength of our relationship, especially in today’s increasingly complex and rapidly changing geo-political environment. I look forward to my political engagements with President Steinmeier, Chancellor Merkel and other leaders and spokespersons this week. These will serve to further strengthen our bilateral relationship and our capacity to achieve together a better future for all of our European citizens.

I commend Germany for its positive European and global leadership, most notably during the migration crisis of recent years. I recognise the sacrifices made by Germany in welcoming those who sought refuge from conflict, oppression, violence and hatred. These sacrifices generated considerable debate in Germany but this debate, in an open, positive and constructive setting, is precisely what is needed if we are to effectively address the problems facing today’s world, respond appropriately to the consequences of conflict, oppression, dispossession and the displacements caused by climate change and endemic poverty.

I look forward to visiting Leipzig, the birthplace of the movement in 1989 which ushered in a new era for Germany and Europe. I will speak at the University of Leipzig on the future of Europe and the importance of having policies that align ecology, economics and ethics as we move forward. As a new generation comes of age, it is timely to remind ourselves of why the European Union was created. We must proactively encourage reflection and open debate on the Union among all of our citizens if we are to reinforce in the streets and in the homes of Europe the Union’s values of tolerance, the rule of law, democracy and respect for cultural diversity.

We are witnessing a period where the future shape of the European Union is being contested. Moreover, the decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union involves profound challenges for Ireland. I wish, however, to acknowledge the solidarity that has been offered to our island at this difficult time.  Never has Europe been more important for Ireland. We are both proudly Irish and proudly European. Side by side with our European partners, we will together manage the present and chart the future.

Through our partnership we can assure, in an ethically and ecologically responsible manner, a Union offering a future that is fair for all, and that promotes these values internationally. The Europe of tomorrow, which we must begin to build today, will be bound by connections that support, motivate and responsibly meet the needs of one another.

The movement of people and exchange of ideas in Europe, including between Ireland and Germany, has a long history, from the Celtic tribes through Irish missionaries to the modern Diaspora of communities in both nations. I will have the opportunity to recognise this heritage when I visit the resting place in Würzburg of the 7th century Irish missionary St. Killian, and when I meet the modern Irish Diaspora to celebrate their achievements and the new lives they have built in Germany.

It is fitting that my visit takes place during the 90th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two nations. During my visit I will mark the opening in Frankfurt (am Main) of Ireland’s newest overseas mission. The opening of this new Consulate General underlines Ireland’s commitment to deepening and widening its presence in Germany and emphasises the importance that we in Ireland place on having the closest of relations with our German friends.

As President of Ireland, I look forward to this State Visit, and thank the German President, Government and people for their hospitality.



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