Mr. Eberhard Diepgen
Mayor of Berlin
Let me welcome you most warmly to the city of Berlin and to the Town Hall of this formerly divided city in the center of Europe. I hope that you will have many opportunities to see Berlin and experience our citys creativity, innovation, variety and internationalism.
I would like to give you an impression of the city and state of Berlin and say a few words about its philosophy. I would also like to touch on the links between our city, your role in NATO, and the history of NATO. To understand Berlin, we must take a look at the cityat this big construction site. This is the city of cranes. We are competing to be the biggest construction site in the world. Our rivals are other world-cities such as Shanghai and Moscow, and Warsaw in Europe. Throughout this architecture and construction, you can see variety, internationalism, and collaboration between reconstruction, modern buildings and modern times. You can see buildings by architects from all around the world and certainly from each of your own countries. Here in Berlin, we embrace the opportunities that came with the fall of the Berlin Wall. We want to create a modern city in the heart of European idea that refers to more than an economic element. It also refers to new services, new technology, new media, and Berlins position as the seat of government and the federal capital of Germany. Berlin is to become the cultural and social center of Germany and Central Europe.
Whoever wants to understand the challenges facing Berlin today must look at its history. Ten years ago, it was a divided city: one half was a totalitarian dictatorship while the other half, West Berlin, was a symbol of the fight for freedom and democracy and of the solidarity with the West. To have in one place both a centralist, totalitarian communist state and a symbol of anti-communism, poses a challenge. Today, our greatest challenge is to create one common identity for the entire city. Last year, we celebrated the success story of the Berlin Airlift. This success story was linked with an enormous logistical effort. It was also linked with the process of transforming former enemies into Allies and then into friends. Finally, it had to do with the ability and the readiness to defend oneselfsomething that is linked with our history.
Berlin politics have always tackled problems of freedom and securityyou can see and sense this when you are in Berlin. Berlin politics always understood that the citys existence had to do with the strength of the defense Alliance. And all aspects which gave the outside world evidence of the readiness to defend oneself were critical. I remember well the first visit by a German Army soldier to Berlin and I also remember the first private, and then official, visit by the Secretary General of NATO. We in Berlin saw this as a token for normalcy, for progress, and as a symbol of the success of our struggle for freedom, democracy, change in Europe, and peace. I would like to reiterate the gratitude Berliners feel for NATO and for what NATO has done for this city.
You are here to discuss the future strategy of the Alliance. Based on our experience, I can only stress that European politics must not underestimate the necessity for an effective defenseeven though there are massive changes on the European Continentand the dangers that still exist today. NATO has never seen itself as being against something, but rather for somethingfor an idea. And this is one of the historical experiences of this city.