(Courtesy : Dawn)
BERLIN: The United States should cede some of its powers to international organisations to create a ‘world order’, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday in an unusually sharp criticism of Washington before she led world leaders through the Brandenburg Gate — the climax of ceremonies marking 20 years since the Berlin Wall came crashing down in 1989.
‘We Europeans are used to this…. We have voluntarily given up many of our powers to Brussels and to the European Union,’ said the German chancellor.
‘But our American partners find it much more difficult to hand over powers to the International Monetary Fund or to any other international organisation,’ she said.Within the EU, Germany has become used to accepting the will of the majority, even if it does not agree, but this has not yet lodged itself in the American psyche, she added.‘What we need today is a much more multi-polar vision than that to which we have become accustomed,’ the chancellor said.’ This world will only be a peaceful and good world if we have more of a world order and more multilateral cooperation,’ she said.
On a recent trip to Washington, Angela Merkel received one of her greatest honours and biggest embarrassments in the space of a few hours.
She was the first German leader to address a joint session of Congress but, soon afterwards, she learned of an abrupt about-turn by car maker General Motors which was supposed to sell Germany’s Opel to her preferred bidder but decided to keep it instead.
Washington said the White House had played no part in the decision, but the German press described it as a bitter slap in the face for the chancellor.
Ms Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany, marched through the historic Brandenburg Gate with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Presidents Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Dmitry Medvedev of Russia, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and representatives from across the European Union.
The leaders joined more than 100,000 revellers who thronged the monument despite a steady cold drizzle.
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and ex-Polish president Lech Walesa also appeared at the landmark, which now stands as the symbol of German unity.
‘It is not only a day of celebration for Germans,’ Ms Merkel said of the anniversary. ‘It is a day of celebration for the whole of Europe.’
In a surprise video address beamed into the ceremonies, US President Barack Obama said he still took inspiration from the courage of East Germans who stood up against their oppressive regime.
‘Few would have foreseen … that a united Germany would be led by a woman from (the east German state) Brandenburg or that their American ally would be led by a man of African descent,’ he said.‘But human destiny is what human beings make of it.’
But Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sounded a sour note, saying the end of the Cold War did not justify any nation’s global dominance, in a clear swipe at the United States.‘The transition to a new multipolar world is today very important for most countries, for all the countries in Europe and the world,’ he said.
Medvedev said Russia had often felt on the back foot since the Wall fell, despite assurances at the time that NATO would not expand eastward, as it since has.
‘We were hoping the disappearance of the Warsaw Pact would be accompanied by a different degree of Russia’s integration into common European space,’ he added.‘What have we received as a result? Nato is still a bloc whose rockets are targeting the Russian territory.’
British prime Minister Gordon Brown called the unity of Berlin, Germany and Europe ‘majestic’ achievements.
The Wall ‘was swept away by the greatest force of all — the unbreakable spirit of men and women who dared to dream in the darkness,’ he said.
French President Nikolas Sarkozy said the global community still needed to live up to the promise of that euphoric night.
‘The fall of the Berlin Wall is an appeal, an appeal to all to vanquish oppression, to knock down the walls that throughout the world still divide towns, territories, peoples,’ he said.
Crowds surged to hear Berlin’s renowned State Opera orchestra play strains of Beethoven and Wagner and cheered the symbolic toppling of 1,000 giant styrofoam dominoes along two kilometres of the Wall’s former course, where border guards once had shoot-to-kill orders.
At least 136 people who tried to cross it were killed during the 28 years it stood. The Wall was raised in Aug 1961by the erstwhile East German government in an attempt to stop immigration to the West.
Following weeks of protests against the regime, East German authorities suddenly allowed people to travel to the West on the now epochal night of Nov 9, 1989.
After almost three decades as prisoners in their own country, stunned East Germans streamed to checkpoints and rushed past bewildered guards, many falling tearfully into the arms of West Germans on the other side.
Easterner Christel Schneider, now a 62-year-old bank employee, said the mood that night was electrifying.
‘I crossed the border into the West — it was madness,’ she said, still breathless from the memories. ‘There were so many people that we were driving at a snail’s pace.’
Eleven months later, in Oct 1990, East and West Germany unified.—Agencies