Why do a few words make me wince
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They exist. The names that make us wince because they allow the incomprehensible to congeal into a single word. Names that conceal a thousandfold suffering in just a few letters. Names that are a reminder and a reminder. Srebrenica is one of those names.
It's burned into our memories. It stands for the thousandfold murder of Muslim boys and men.
And also for the systematic rape of countless victims, most of them women and girls.
What happened in and around Srebrenica 25 years ago still affects us and stunned us today.
The crimes that were committed then were a crime against humanity. Srebrenica stands for ethnic cleansing, for looting, displacement, torture, murder and mass rape, for a terrible spiral of violence and counter-violence.
Dear ladies and gentlemen,
Who would have guessed that 50 years after the end of Nazi barbarism, another genocide would soak the earth of Europe with blood? Especially here, when there were the most mixed marriages between the different ethnic groups in the entire former Yugoslavia?
It is disturbing to see how a few years were enough to turn peaceful coexistence into civil war; how nationalism slowly seeped into language and thought, accumulated more and more there, and finally hatred broke through forcibly.
Srebrenica reminds us: Peace cannot be taken for granted. Though it may seem so to us sometimes, in peacetime. It is not so.
Willy Brandt said in 1992, shortly before his death and three years before Srebrenica: “Our time is, like no other before, full of possibilities - for better and for worse. Nothing comes by itself. And only a little lasts ”.
These words are perhaps the most important tradition of his life, which was shaped by the experiences of war and flight. I am sure he was right. We must not take peace and cohesion for granted or for granted.
We cannot passively watch nationalism spread.
Rather, we have to be an active advocate for peace. We mustn't have the illusion that it won't be that bad.
In the Balkans, but also in many other places in the world, we have seen what happens when nationalism slowly, but very steadily, poisons togetherness. At first you hardly notice it.
But at some point the point will be reached, where resentment turns into hate and hate turns into violence.
We can't let it get that far. It is our responsibility to do good.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Peace and cohesion can only flourish where the dark deeds of the past are dealt with and accompanied by reconciliation.
Recognizing crime and accountability is the first step towards reconciliation.
25 years after Srebrenica there is still a dispute over the classification of the crimes. Although there is clear international jurisprudence, the acts of violence are still not generally recognized as genocide. Even in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the genocide is denied by some.
And there are still people who use divisive rhetoric to artificially bring what is supposed to divide into the foreground in order to make political capital out of it; although the commonalities, the worries and hardships of everyday life, the desire for a better future are so much greater in people's daily lives.
Reconciliation is a task for society as a whole. Fortunately for us, there are those who do good, who do not take peace for granted, who work for understanding.
I have great respect for all the people in Bosnia and Herzegovina and throughout the Western Balkans who have taken on this task; the many civil society organizations that remember the suffering of the victims and at the same time advocate reconciliation. You deserve support.
I wish the political actors the same courage. It takes courage to face the historical legacy and to jointly support the social reappraisal.
And I hope that the legal processing of the crimes will continue and that the perpetrators will be brought to justice.
Even after so many years, not all perpetrators had to answer for their offenses in court.
We must be shamed that many victims and their families have still not been granted this right to judgment and judgment.
The legal processing is essential; just as social reconciliation is an important prerequisite - for the peaceful and stable development of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the entire region on the way to the European Union.
Dear ladies and gentlemen,
the history of the EU is one of reconciliation after centuries of bitter wars. We would like the same for the Western Balkans.
We therefore want to support the further integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina into the EU during the German EU Council Presidency.
I have no doubt that the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the other Western Balkans countries lies in the European Union. The Western Balkans are also part of the European peace project.
Ladies and gentlemen,
After the barbarism of the Nazi era, Europe made the promise: “never again”.
Nevertheless, Srebrenica happened. For all of us it means to be vigilant, not to take peace for granted; Defend democracy and human rights.
Because worldwide and also in Europe the ugly face of nationalism is showing up again. More and more states are isolating themselves from the outside and restricting freedom inside. Populists try to stir up fears and turn them into political capital.
We as democrats must oppose this.
We have to oppose populism with the power of reason. We have to keep open spaces. We must defend multilateralism and international cooperation.
And: We have to live solidarity in Europe. Just now.
For me, “never again” means: to stand up against hate speech and the degradation of other people in whatever form it appears - as nationalism, racism, sexism, as anti-Semitism, Islamophobia or homophobia.
“Never again” means: actively shaping a future of peaceful coexistence.
“Never again” means: working together as a global community on the great challenges of our time.
“Never again” means to continually fill the promise on which Europe rests with new life.
That is our mission and our responsibility.
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