Germany’s Sept. 24 national election has shown the country is divided by new, less visible “walls”, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Tuesday, the anniversary of German reunification.
Speaking 27 years after East and West Germany were reunited following the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall, Steinmeier said the election, which saw the far-right enter parliament, had exposed “large and small cracks” in society and he called on democratic lawmakers to work together to fight any return to nationalism.
“On September 24th, it became clear that other walls have arisen, less visible, without barbed wire and death-strips, but walls that stand in the way of our common sense of ‘us’,” Steinmeier said in a speech in the western city of Mainz.
German President #Steinmeier rejects growing tide of nationalism on #GermanUnityDay. pic.twitter.com/PbVs1FJbWN— DW | Politics (@dw_politics) October 3, 2017
Chancellor Angela Merkel won a fourth term in office in the election, but the vote brought a far-right party into parliament for the first time in more than half a century.
A fractured vote means she will have to govern with a far less stable coalition.
Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany, said the reunification anniversary was “a day of joy”. Reunified Germany carried a responsibility to uphold freedom at home and abroad, she said.
“We know we cannot disconnect from what’s going on in the world. Rather, we must take care that globalisation is constructed humanely,” she added at celebrations in Mainz.
But Steinmeier, a centre-left Social Democrat who was foreign minister before taking up the largely ceremonial presidency role in March, said that Germany now has “walls between our living environments”.
He said these had sprung up “between city and country, online and offline, poor and rich, old and young – walls, from behind which people hardly understand anything of each other.”