The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1994Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Speech at the Festakt in Berlin – 8 September 1994

Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech at the Festakt in Berlin, on 8th September 1994.


Herr Bundesprasident, Chancellor Kohl, Governing Mayor Diepgen, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is a memorable day. Let me begin by thanking you, Chancellor Kohl, for the generosity of your tribute to the role of Allied Forces in Berlin. Let me thank you too, for this very special farewell to mark the Allies’ departure.

It is a pleasure to be here in this wonderful setting, a pleasure which none of us could have enjoyed only five years ago. Outside, we have seen the magnificent restoration of one of the most beautiful squares in any European city. Ladies and Gentlemen, restoration is not just about buildings. We are here today in a city made whole again, in a re-united country, and in a Europe restored.

A few years ago, it used to be fashionable to talk about European architecture. Here around us we have the sort of architecture I would like to see for Europe. The French Church in the square outside, matching the German Church across the square, stands for a tradition of hospitality, free speech and tolerance. This theatre itself is an echo of a different age – the Age of Reason, of Locke and Voltaire, of Kant and Benjamin Franklin.

So it is fitting that we should be meeting here today. For if we are wise, Europe today stands on the threshold of a new Age of Reason. We have before us now possibilities for peace, freedom and friendship that we have never had before. Today there is no West Berlin and East Berlin, no West Germany and East Germany, no West Europe, no East Europe. The points of the compass have lost their post war political connotations – and they have lost them for good.

We owe this great opportunity to many people. First, to the men and women of the Forces themselves: our forces, American forces, French forces, and standing behind them the whole of NATO, including the Bundeswehr.

We came to Berlin as occupying forces, we stayed as protecting forces, and we leave as friends. Earlier this afternoon we attended a moving ceremony to commemorate those who gave their lives during the Airlift. The Berlin Airlift marks the point when enemies became Allies. We honour those who lost their lives in the Airlift. Our ceremonies today, in a united and free Berlin, demonstrate to us all that they did not die in vain. They will always be remembered.

We also honour all of those stationed here who were prepared to give their lives in the defence of freedom and for the sake of Berlin. It is to their commitment that we owe the new opportunities in Europe today.

The second people I would honour are the statesmen. Adenauer and Churchill, Truman, Bevin, Kennedy and De Gaulle; and, of course, Ernst Reuter, Governing Mayor of this city in some of its most difficult days and years. All of these, in different ways, defended and sustained Berlin. Later came others led by a former Governing Mayor, Willi Brandt, who began again the slow process of turning former enemies into friends.

First, the defence of freedom then the hand of friendship. And the final act, where the hand is taken and the friendship sealed, will forever recall the name of one of the great statesmen of the post-War period, Mikhail Gorbachev and, of course, your own name, Herr Bundeskanzler.

Finally, we owe this opportunity for a new beginning in Europe to the people. It was the people of Berlin who rebuilt this city from the ruins of war. It was the people whose courage and humour sustained Berlin during the tensest moments of the Cold War. And it was the people on the streets of Berlin who brought the wall down.

The story of freedom always begins with the people. On the streets of Berlin, on the streets of Leipzig, Prague, Budapest, Warsaw and Moscow.

The service of our soldiers, the wisdom of our statesmen, the courage of our people. These have given us the opportunity for a new Age of Reason in Europe. That all of these historic changes have come without bloodshed gives us hope that this may be so.

While Europe was still divided, the process of building the institutions we need to preserve peace and to spread freedom had already begun. The old world of the balance of power is gone. Instead we have the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the CSCE. Above all, we have the North Atlantic Alliance and the European Union. The peace, freedom and prosperity that these have brought to all our countries must now be carried eastward across the old borders of the old divided Europe.

War between us has become unthinkable. Next year we will celebrate 50 years of peace in Europe, something never known before. I look forward to welcoming our partners, and Allies, including your country, Chancellor Kohl, to our celebrations on 7 May 1995 to mark this anniversary.

We are here today to bid farewell to the Allied Forces in Berlin. When they arrived Berlin was in ruins. While they served here, it was divided. Now they leave it, a city restored, making ready to take its place again as the seat of Germany’s Government and Parliament. Herr Bundeskanzler, we came as adversaries, we stayed as allies, and we leave as friends.

But our links with this city will not diminish. Through our future new Embassy in Wilhelmstrasse, our businessmen, our culture, our architects and our people, we remain committed to Berlin and Germany’s future. British people will continue to play their part in the life of this fine city.

On behalf of the British forces in Berlin, Chancellor Kohl, Governing Mayor Diepgen, Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you for your warmth and hospitality to British servicemen and women down the years. I join them in celebrating your success.