Deutsch Britische Gesellschaft Lecture
February 18, 2003
In speaking to you today I want to look at the prospects for the development of closer relations between England and Germany over the next twenty five years. And I recognise that my use of England rather than Britain would be regarded as controversial at home but I believe that during the next twenty five years the independence movements within Scotland and Wales may transform the United Kingdom into a very different Constitutional state.
Looking back twenty five years gives one much perspective about the political, technological and economic changes that can happen. Margaret Thatcher’s economic revolution had yet to come out of the starting blocks in England; the European Union was just nine countries, the personal computer had not yet seen the light of day, 22 US billionaires had yet to start the businesses that made their fortunes, whilst in Asia the Japanese business miracle was still weaving its magic.
No one will deny that the process of change is faster now than ever so how can I dare to look so far in advance? Well, the reason is that I believe the world is fundamentally sounder for political visionaries – people who realise that the short-term achievements will always be forgotten. There are politicians from around the world who have looked far ahead rather than allowed themselves to be muddled with their experience of recent history. For instance I would like to mention briefly here my admiration for former US President, Richard Nixon, who, for all his domestic political trials, embraced China and set the wheels in motion for the USSR to choose to come in from the cold and so indirectly set in train the process which led to the re-unification of Germany.
By the end of the first half of this century I expect China and the US to be the two economic superpowers bestriding the world with Europe as the beacon of democracy burning within it ever brighter as an example to all.
And it is on the importance of maintaining this beacon of freedom that I shall concentrate. In my speech I shall stress the importance of the shared democratic history between Britain and Germany; the positive impact that these two nations have had on the global democratic political scene, and how that historic role must again be nurtured for the benefit of all in the future. And it is my generation, not those born in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War but really those of us who came to adulthood after the Cold War who have the task of deepening again the historic Anglo-German relationship.
But I start by commenting on the cloud that still casts a shadow over much German/English co-operation (and I don’t mean your pinpoint accuracy at penalty shoot-outs on the football pitch). No one should deny that the horrors of the Second World War are still firmly part of the consciousness of many people throughout the world. My generation should not berate those who suffered through the decade of the 1940s for failing to let go of the past. The deep impact of that time must be respected but, as we sail further away from the 20th century, our focus should turn to the worthy ambition of building upon fifty years of Anglo-German friendship and co-operation in peacetime.
Part of my recognition for this goal comes from my own German/British birthright which has been a vital foundation in developing my strong beliefs in freedom and democracy and building my enthusiasm to participate in public life and ensure the continuance of those values in the country which I regard as my home.
Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the flight of my mother, Ulrike, from the East to the Federal Republic. My mother had been born in Breslau a few months after the beginning of the Second World War and as far as I am aware – and I believe that family records go back to the 1700s – all of my German forefathers resided in Silesia. As the Red Army advanced in January 1945 my mother’s family, in common with millions of other ethnic Germans, fled westwards. By chance that journey took them to Leipzig for no better reason than it was the town where other relatives had settled some years before. [Not that this part of Germany was safe by any means – I reflect here in Dresden that it was 58 years ago this week that the horrific raids which killed 25,000 civilians took place.]
At this point my mother was a five year old girl. Her recollection is that this part of Germany was liberated by the Americans, partly because she remembers the kindness with which American GIs treated her, along with her two elder sisters and younger brother. But as we all know the immediate post-war settlement of Yalta and Potsdam decreed that her new home would become part of the German Democratic Republic. My maternal grandfather was a doctor. Accordingly he was soon able to find work and within a few years day-to-day family life returned to normal. But, although he cherished his family, he also loved freedom, liberty and democracy, so as years passed by he became increasingly disenchanted with life in the German Democratic Republic under Walter Ulbricht. I am sure that his heart was with those responsible for the uprisings of June 1953 but as a family man with four children he had to be careful. Fortunately he was a well-liked community doctor and so it was that a patient, who also happened to be a member of the local Communist Party, tipped him off that he was being investigated by the authorities. Early one morning during the Whitsun holiday of 1954 the entire family travelled to Berlin. Naturally this was before the days of the Wall and so, pretending to be day trippers, they walked across from the East into the West zone and into a refugee camp.
Eight months passed before my mother, her parents and siblings were finally able to settle in Bielefeld. It was a few months short of ten years after leaving that British refugee camp in Berlin that I was born. In the meantime my mother had studied languages, learning English from scratch (naturally East German schools had taught Russian as the main foreign language). She became a translator for NATO and it was in that role that she met my father who was serving as an Officer in the British Army. They were married in November 1962 and within two years I had been born in the British Military Hospital, Hanover. I must confess that I barely knew my grandfather – indeed he died when I was only four years old. However, the legacy of his courageous political choice lives with me today. For one, I was lucky enough to be born into the free, democratic world rather than spending the first 25 years of my life living under Communism. But it is more profound than that. For although my mother has never involved herself actively in politics (other than recently becoming a member of the Conservative Party out of loyalty to me), it was always instilled in me from a very young age that politics was too important simply to be left to someone else.
I am sure that most of you are familiar with the famous quotation from the British political philosopher, Edmund Burke, who observed some two centuries ago:
That for evil to prevail requires only that good men do nothing.
But it is a phrase which has always had a deeper reverberation within me than most because of my understanding of my family’s life in Germany through the 1920s and 30s.
It was my grandfather’s greatest regret that neither he nor many of his generation of professional and educated people wished to involve themselves in public life or politics in Germany during those turbulent times. The Weimar Republic is not remembered fondly here in Germany nor in England and it may be that no amount of determined activism or enthusiasm on the part of good Germans during those crucial years would have prevented what came to pass in its aftermath. Many of you I am sure will have read, Defying Hitler, that wonderful book published three years ago posthumously by the son of Sebastian Haffner. This has been a bestseller in England too and it has certainly helped me to understand more of what must have been going through the mind of my grandfather as he grew up, studied, worked, married and lived during those times. Certainly it became a regret to his dying day that he had not involved himself in politics during that era and as a direct result I have always felt it my duty to play a full role in public life.
With my belief in the importance of democratic politics I am sure you will also understand my instinctive alarm at the desperately low level of turnout which characterised both the British General Election in 2001 and the German Election last year. Some commentators tried to argue that this was a sign of contentment, others that it was simply apathy at the entire political process. A few people suggested that because there was so little to choose between the political parties it didn’t make much difference who was elected anyway. Others claimed that democracy doesn’t matter much nowadays since we all live in a global trading environment. I fear that a lot of good men and women are doing nothing at the moment – politically at least – and this should be a cause for far greater concern than many social commentators realise.
So let me tell you a little bit more about what I have done since my time as a little boy listening in wonder to tales of my mother’s childhood. I should perhaps at this point make a small confession – like many Englishmen abroad my father never bothered to learn more than handful of words of German and of course my mother spoke English fluently. Well I say fluently – obviously I have learnt English from her so it is perhaps unsurprising that I did not notice the fact that she speaks with a quite pronounced German accent, which was the cause of great hilarity amongst all my school friends. This is especially the case on the odd occasion when she in true Teutonic style mixes up the English word order. As a result we never spoke German at home and although I studied its language and literature up to Abitur level, there is of course a terrific gulf between that level of proficiency and speaking the language fluently. To my shame I am on the wrong side of that gap. I went on to study law at Oxford University and then spent four years as an international corporate lawyer with what was then one of the leading London law firms of the time, Freshfields. As some of you may know, this firm has since grown into the international legal giant, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, which now boasts more partners in its array of German offices than in London – truly the Germans are taking over! I then left the law – in all honesty although international corporate law sounds very glamorous it is in reality rather dull at least as a junior lawyer. I also felt that the world would not miss one lawyer so I left the law in order to go into business. I set up a headhunting and recruitment firm which I ran for seven years before selling it to a consortium, led by my former business partner, on my election to Parliament.
I was elected to Parliament for the first time in June 2001 for the constituency of the Cities of London and Westminster. As you may be aware, the British electoral system works on the basis of ‘first past the post’ and all Members of Parliament are representatives of a distinct geographical area. As you may also have gathered, my seat contains all of what you would probably regard as central London and I suspect that even the least travelled amongst you may well have spent at least some time in my constituency. It contains the whole of the historic part of London, the City of London, which now contains the financial district and a relatively small residential population. The City of Westminster includes not only Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey but also is home to the best known retail centre (the West End) and the heart of Britain’s cultural industry, including the top theatres, and in Soho and Covent Garden the districts which are home to the UK TV and film industries. Although it has been a traditional Conservative seat (if I had succeeded in losing my election it would have been the first time since 1868 that a Conservative had managed to do that), it contains both very wealthy districts (such as Belgravia, Mayfair and Knightsbridge) as well as areas of more typical inner city poverty.
One of the most curious aspects of representing this vibrant inner city area in the heart of one of the world’s great capitals is the remarkably strong sense of identity within the traditional villages that make up even this bustling city centre seat. I work with over 30 separate residents’ groups in central London alone – ” I often wonder whether in a more impersonal, globalised world there is a natural craving for people to find comfort in small, local activity, which we in public life need to harness to do good.
I hope I have given you a sense of my background and present political life which has led to today’s talk about restoring the traditional Anglo-German relationship:
In spite of the deep-rooted historical links between our two nations, sadly my fellow countrymen’s knowledge of Germany (except for a 12 year period in the middle of the last century) is almost non-existent. This situation has seemed ever more curious to me as I have grown older. The preservation of an open, democratic and civic society is a model to which the free world – and many of the people living outside the free world – continue to aspire.
It seems to me that many of these enduring values came to prominence as a result of the Protestant Reformation, which came into being following Martin Luther’s defiance of the Roman Catholic Church almost exactly 500 years ago. The importance that the Reformation played in the intellectual development of Western European ideas cannot be overstated. Up until 1517 there had been a universal Established Church which was intolerant of any dissent to its power. Indeed the threat of excommunication was surely not conducive to independent thinking, scepticism or even a broad range of academic speculation. This intellectual freedom was taken up with gusto by the English and subsequently formed the basis of the British state. It has also been at the forefront of a vast array of developments in science, the arts, philosophy and the political thinking which has moulded Western European and world history since that time. Similarly there is little doubt that impatience at the rate of political change or brief periods of renewed religious intolerance have resulted in many fleeing the shores of Europe to make a new life in the United States of America. Once there in the New World, the people of the United States maintained a passion for justice and freedom coupled with an outspoken yet intense conviction which has set the template for the underlying values of the free world today. Yet in this the United States as a young country lacks the historical perspective on these issues which uniquely we – by which I mean the British and the Germans – can add. Tonight I want to touch on some of these issues particularly as I believe our collective experience of the historical foundations of our two European nations is now crucial if a free, open and democratic society is to hold its nerve in the face of the global terrorist threat.
Indeed the international situation is clearly in the forefront of all of our minds as we face such uncertain times ahead. Like most elected representatives, I have received hundreds of letters in recent months from constituents, almost all expressing alarm at the prospect of war in Iraq. My own constituency, containing as it does, key strategic targets and other high profile buildings recognised internationally, is naturally the most obvious target for attack. Some of the letters written to me have expressed the view forcefully that British political leaders – across the Party divide – have not been serving the interests of the British people as well as Chancellor Schroeder of Germany or President Chirac of France. Indeed the opinion of many of my constituents is that Britain should be distancing itself from the United States at this time rather than providing a broad endorsement of its actions. I must confess that I am instinctively supportive of the actions of the Prime Minister of my country although equally I feel there is a great role for both Britain and Germany to play as this crisis builds. I only hope we have the collective vision and political courage to grasp this opportunity, for the future of the free world may depend upon our nations not being marginalised for narrow domestic political reasons.
Clearly we have an obligation as members of a global community to fulfil a responsibility beyond our national boundaries. We cannot simply cower in the face of a threat from a Middle Eastern dictator and other opponents of democracy on the basis that Britain or Germany, rather than other nations, could become the next target. Let us make no mistake there will continue to be other targets until these international terrorists are hunted down and eliminated. If you share the reservations of many that Iraq seems singled out as a solitary target then surely it is for us here in Europe to put the case for a broader ranging Middle Eastern settlement. In particular, we need to have a commitment to a resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian dispute which ensures the universal recognition of Israel as well as of an economically viable Palestinian state. I also believe that far too often US commercial interests in Saudi Arabia have enabled the Western world to turn a blind eye to the almost feudal system there which has helped promote, and at times harbour, international terrorism. The leading European nations need to engage with the United States to make sure that such a programme is put into place. Non-involvement may make German cities a little safer from retaliatory attack today, but in my opinion this does nothing in the longer term for global democracy and thus stability.
In summary, the case for military action has not been well made by any of the leaders of the Western world. Still there remains an over-riding view that however much, or little, the United Nations becomes involved. This is essentially an American venture from start to finish. Surely now is the time for the European voice to be heard. As an Englishman, proud to have German blood running through his veins, I must confess it alarms me that almost a decade and a half since the end of the Cold War and 12 years on from German reunification we still hear far too often the German position that its constitution inhibits it from acting militarily except in self-defence. We all know that this argument, insofar as it was ever true, was a convenient fiction which held sway during the post-war era. It allowed both internationally minded German politicians and the NATO allies to placate residual fears of a German military renaissance. Yet the constitution says differing things on this point and few Germans have appeared willing to clarify the matter. In the midst of this military vacuum not only does the European Union often appear foolish and inept but inevitably it opens the door to ensuring that a lead on all of these matters is taken by the United States.
We need only to look at the disaster that befell the former Yugoslavia and, in particular, events in Croatia and Bosnia to see that when America steps away from the breach, as it did there in mid-1991, there was no sufficiently responsible militarily equipped Europe to take over. Indeed events there made a mockery of both Great Britain and France who kept warm their seats on the United Nations Security Council but did little else as if that status alone would have made a difference while the cold horrors of war swept through Serbian villages. Surely we should all collectively in Europe have learned from that shameful episode a decade ago that doing nothing simply is not an option today.
For the threat of terrorism amongst our civilian populations is especially insidious. With a cloud of fear in the sky, as people go about their everyday lives, so slowly but surely they change their daily routine. Gradually people stop seeing the truth before their eyes until finally there is a temptation on the part of many simply to ignore conduct that would otherwise have been regarded as unacceptable. It is argued that cultural allowances must be made for this and that and suddenly even the most idealistic of our citizens turns into a keen proponent of realpolitik. I must confess it is never easy to know how easily political quotations and international comparisons travel. However, it was said by a leading British politician in 1938 that – Czechoslovakia is a far away country – in order to justify a policy of inaction. Today in Britain I see far too many people using the same justification for steering clear of intervention anywhere in the Middle East. Terrorists know no such maps and will kill in Europe, Asia, America or Africa without regard to geography. Surely we should all agree that in today’s global community there is no longer any such thing as a far away country. Truly the threat of terrorism has the capacity to corrupt the terrorised every bit as much as the terrorist.
Let us be clear, the attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September 2001 and the murderous outrages in Bali and Kenya last year were not simply isolated events against random targets. Rather they were attacks on the very idea of an open, free, democratic, civil society. Those apologists for Islamic fundamentalism, people who really should know better, argue that it is borne out of poverty and envy for what we have in the West. I say to you that is a fundamental misunderstanding of the philosophy of Al Qaeda – for in truth their philosophy is one of hatred for everything we in the West stand for, not least as their terrorism is based on the persistent and deliberate violation of fundamental human rights. Terrorism preys particularly on communities that practise openness and tolerance. Indeed it is these beliefs rather than our ethnic origins, race or religion, which make us what we are. Those long enduring values of religious, political and economic freedom, which were first promoted here in Germany. Our belief in democracy and the rule of law.
All of these fundamental beliefs are now under attack by terrorists. Remember too that our love of freedom threatens terrorists and the dictators who support them, for they know that these powerful ideas of democracy, liberty and respect for human life will destroy their own power if they gain a foothold amongst their people. So the very best long-term deterrent to terrorism is the universal spread of these principles. The more quickly they are promoted around the globe the safer we shall all be. It is for that reason that those dictators who support international terrorism must be removed. Indeed the best antidote to international terrorism is to preach in every corner of the globe that gospel of freedom, liberty and the rule of law.
International terrorism lacks a set of enduring or popular values with which to combat liberty and democracy. Its only defence is to strike out against innocent civilians, destroy innocent human life and hope to break our spirit. As I have said, our two countries – England and Germany – are the cradle of those concepts of individual freedom which underpin what we know as the free world today. It is surely for our political leaders now to take the lead in standing up for these values. This cannot just be done quietly in the committee rooms of the United Nations. It is surely our historical duty to provide a lead to the rest of the world, especially those countries whose freedom and democracy has been more recently won.
It is all too easy for us to find excuses why we should keep our heads down. But if we are to use political correctness as an excuse for silence in the face of global terrorism then we will not serve the interests of our own populations yet alone the wider world to which we surely owe a moral duty. Today the world finds itself at a crossroads. On the one side are freedom, liberty and the rule of law and on the other are tyranny, mass murder and chaos. Instinctively we know, because we have been here before, what the right path is to take. We should show no fear and leave no doubt in the minds of the world outside of our true intentions. Today we have almost reached the day of reckoning â?” our true intentions are not enough: we must act on them.
My passionate belief in my country stems from its proven historical capacity to be a beacon for the values which we have just described. One of the most important principles is the notion that the security of an individual’s property is intimately linked to his freedom. Several recent economic studies have concluded that economic prosperity across the continents is inextricably linked to the personal rights to hold, and state protection over, private property. This goes beyond simply real estate – indeed rising prices, or inflation, by making paper money valueless is a direct assault on property and as a result a threat to liberty. Clearly the events of 1923 here in Germany have been so firmly ingrained in the minds of succeeding generations that the target of low inflation was regarded as the primary purpose of the Bundesbank which had control of German monetary affairs until 13 months ago.
So I would like to say a little about what Europe means today to many of my generation in England and what it can, and should, mean tomorrow. I have only recently taken my seat in the House of Commons and I should like to think that my career in Parliament may last for the next quarter of a century at least. In my opinion it is this type of timescale which needs to be considered when talking about the development of Europe’s future. Much has changed in the last decade or so, but of one thing we can be quite sure – the rate of change in a global world will only accelerate. But what I sense today is the vital importance of my own country embracing the expansion of Europe because in that way we are both broadening and deepening the support of democracy and liberty on the continent. If we keep people outside the European Union it is my view that the potential for extremist leadership is made that much greater.
I must confess that the debate on the European Union in my own country is often sterile and lacking in the sort of vision to which I refer. As you will know, in my own Conservative Party there has been a polarisation of views and an increasing detachment from the desire to understand more about the European Union. With that sterility Britain has diminished its potentially key role in the development and improvement of Europe’s future.
The European Union and the major countries in it have also at times been their own worst enemies. For example, the Commission has failed miserably to be an organisation of probity and integrity. Clearly, however, the principles that underpin the European Union have proved themselves to be a manifest success for keeping the peace, for promoting freedom and in general for trade. I am reminded of the phenomenal success that made West Germany such a mighty economic powerhouse from the 1950s onwards under Konrad Adenauer and Ludwig Erhard. They were free market, forward-looking reformers and Erhard’s great insight was that centralised planning simply doesn’t work. It was this liberalisation from the desperate economic circumstances after the Second World War which allowed West Germany to flourish. This contrasted greatly to a highly planned socialist economy both in East Germany but also in Great Britain during that era and it took my country over three decades to show signs of beginning to recover. What I find depressing as we enter a new century is that there is almost no one here in Europe who now feels able to speak out against the superficial charms of economic planning. It is truly in the spirit of the age and I only hope it is an era that will pass quickly, for over-regulation and red tape are literally strangling business and wealth creation. I speak as someone who has moved from business into politics recently and the fundamental lack of understanding between the two never ceases to amaze me. This augurs very badly for the prospects of a much larger European Union which is set to incorporate ten more countries in two years. This growth in membership will have a profound effect on the working of the European Union which could unsettle it far more than it currently realises. Economic uncertainty will also lead to ever more reluctance on the part of British politicians, whether Labour or Conservative, to engage more closely with the rest of Europe.
Poland, for instance, at its most recent election chose to return a Socialist Party which makes its integration into the European Union more difficult. All countries need to lift their heads to the financial prospects which beckon over the next 25 years. Poland is massive in terms of its population and its huge farming lands are operated in a manner which cannot possibly compete against many of the other European farmers. If nothing else the long-term integration of Poland must lead to the long overdue reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.
But there again this is where the European Union is – from the perspective of an Englishman at least – its own worst enemy. The political reality of the Union is that powerful forces still have to be overturned for stable reform to be possible. But these philosophies – in many cases – are still entrenched from the past. To be frank this type of thinking is not of the 21st century. Poland may now be considered to be part of Europe and is moving towards the European Union. But where do we stand on Turkey? Putting aside the problems with Cyprus (which do not appear to be as intractable as was once thought), should we be at ease with this Asian country becoming part of our Union where clearly its leaders desire it to be, especially in view of its NATO involvement? I hesitate to say too much about the Turkish situation not least as it is an issue with a much higher profile here in Germany – nevertheless it is our two nations of all those in Europe who face an increasingly immediate problem of racial unrest. The continuing sense of separateness that many ethnic minorities feel from the rest of British society has been noted by a number of Government agencies set up in the 1970s which in leading the clamour for minority rights have established a very dangerous principle that it is lawful – and in some cases obligatory – to discriminate in favour of certain racial groups.
I believe it is high time that we gave serious consideration to disbanding any organisation which seeks to promote political correctness in racial matters (so often described as positive discrimination) and recognise that in Europe it is far more important to have a Human Rights Commission which works to value all human beings whatever their race, colour or creed. Curiously although the race relations industry in Britain employs hundreds of people it alone treats itself as being exempt from the demographic quotas which it imposes upon the rest of society. This anomaly is typical because it is a consequence of wrong thinking. It is crucial if Europe is to maintain racial harmony that civility and opportunity are encouraged irrespective of race, colour or creed.
Sadly during recent decades we seem to have established an almost two-tier legal system as a consequence of the well meaning but misguided view that racial differences should be reflected in the law. Yet introducing inequality before the law in this way has merely helped to undermine the entire legal process. In Britain the number of high-profile racial murders where families of the victims have been forced to resort to civil process in order to secure remedy after feeling deprived of justice in the criminal courts has led to unrest and huge media witch hunts and, more disturbingly still, it has become politically incorrect for white politicians to speak out on race issues, instead leaving these matters to race relations ‘experts’ who seem to come exclusively from ethnic minorities. Until we put to one side differences based on race or religion and reject the concept of cultural separateness within a single society, rather than concentrating on the rights and responsibilities of each and every one of us, it is inevitable that ghetto communities will continue to practice their own version of justice. The notion of the rule of law cannot allow for individuals, or groups, to opt out if a tolerant and open society is to be maintained.
These considerations will inevitably be at the forefront of our mind in considering whether Turkey should become a future member of the European Union. But what of our view on Russia today? And what approach are we likely to take in a decade’s time when the EU will have not 15 members but perhaps more than 30? In recent months there have been free elections in half a dozen East European countries and others follow in the months ahead. Many commentators have suggested that these elections will be won by whichever organised political party claims that it most forcibly rejects its socialist legacy. But the problem may then come when one realises that Eastern Europe is short of the very experienced politicians and administrators needed to keep the urge for reform on line. So Poland has gone back to its command government having been made unhappy with the far-reaching reforms of Solidarity. This concern of course goes even closer to home â?” many former East Germans talk of how things have not improved since unification and many feel that they have simply replaced one master, the almighty USSR, with another. Too little value being attached to the sensitivities of over four and a half decades of Eastern bloc rule.
It is argued that money supplies in many former Communist countries are now around five to ten times higher per annual unit of output than is sustainable for any free market system to work. If you allow large moves to freer markets, whilst keeping this overhanging money supply, inflation is likely to rise to astronomical levels. Many of the countries waiting to join the European Union within a couple of years are in precisely this position. The prospects for major difficulties loom large. Indeed it is now time for a visionary approach towards the future of the EU, requiring practical idealism and hope for the future. Few of our citizens recognise the fundamental difference that will take place when the EU becomes 25 strong by the end of 2004 and whilst Britain remains semi-detached from much of the decision-making there is a foreign policy vacuum on mainland Europe where there remains such reluctance to introduce much needed labour market reforms.
Above all, I hope that we shall use the power of the EU in the cause of freedom and democracy. Not so that everyone has to be ruled by an unelected set of bureaucrats, nor have a Central Bank controlling our money supply but rather to allow each country to participate in a programme of world needs of free trade, and to promote an open civil society. If one expects that this century will see no wars, or revolution, or economic slumps and no great financial upsets then perhaps European nations will be able to operate a single currency for a long time. However, it is the case that all currencies depend upon that stability of their political foundations and the survival of the euro will ultimately depend on the maintenance of world peace and prosperity. It is not enough simply to allow the United States to take on the vote of global policeman which has happened by default. As you know that country spends more on its defence than the next nine largest defence spending nations. We must also be masters of our own destiny as any breakdown of American power would be a fundamental shock to the entire capitalist system.
Germany’s recent economic performance has been, by its own high standards disappointing. It is not for me to explore the reasons for it in this speech. However, both our countries are in the hands of ‘Neuer Mitte’ social democratic governments who cannot free themselves of the basic philosophy of taking control, regulating and building a highly planned economy.
Freedom and democracy are not just political philosophies they must also be a firm part of business thinking. We must encourage all our people – but especially the young and the energetic – to be bold, to push forward and succeed. My contemporaries in England and Germany should have no baggage associated with the first half of the last century but rather look both to the historical relationship between our peoples and our recent success together in helping to grow Europe’s economic strength.
Countries such as Ireland, Spain and Portugal have not developed economic success over the past decade or two solely as a result of the European Union. They have achieved an economic strength due to their democratic political stability. This continent of ours is on the cusp of even greater flowering in the decades ahead. What we need is both to fertilise its growth and ensure peace and security.
We must support large scale exchange of students across our schools and universities. I believe that we should encourage German corporations and institutions to invest in British academic establishments because it is in this way that so much good fertilisation of democratic thought can be developed and re-enforced.
We know that there are more German banks in London than there are in Frankfurt and it is recognised within the global financial community that the Frankfurt market and London’s Stock Market are close in thought and practicality. Despite some of what in London is regarded as unnecessary bureaucracy, I believe that German business and our national companies also share similar ways of working. More co-operation of this sort is surely needed, more enthusiasm for sharing our common political heritage, more hope for a future free from the threat of terrorism. Above all it needs people like us to encourage, to communicate and direct our young people with a sense of self-belief in the traditional values that we all hold dear.
I want to end this speech on an upbeat note despite the current threat of war and the sombre state of our respective economies. At 38 years of age I consider myself a young man in the world of politics full of hope for the future. We can expect unsettled times in the months and years ahead but it is our instinctive respect for the historic fundamentals of our two great European nations, which can see us through to a brighter future. Whilst neither ignoring nor forgetting the scars of the first half of the twentieth century I hope that my generation will take up the sweet-tasting chalice that beckons and truly restore the traditional Anglo-German friendship that served the world so well for so long.