Germany is celebrating 30 years as a reunified country on Saturday with a scaled-down event due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and longtime politician Wolfgang Schaeuble, Speaker of the Bundestag Parliament, participated in an official ceremony at the Church of St. Peter and Paul in the city of Potsdam, located about 25 kilometers from the southwest. of Berlin.
Only 130 guests were able to participate in the event in the church.
Masks were a must in some parts of Potsdam. Some 2,500 police officers were deployed to monitor a series of demonstrations that were to take place across the city.
Steinmeier was to give a speech at another event in Balbelsberg, home of Germany’s premier Weimar-era film studio, later on Saturday.
A month-long program to mark the anniversary of the nation’s reunification towards the end of the Cold War began in early September in Potsdam.
This year’s host city officials opted for a series of smaller events rather than a large public party to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
In the run-up to Saturday’s historic anniversary, Merkel, the first from East Germany to hold the highest office in German politics, thanked the activists and protesters who led the peaceful revolution in 1989 that brought down the Berlin Wall.
“This anniversary is an occasion of great joy and gratitude,” he said in a speech to parliament on Wednesday.
He also paid tribute to the German people “for the historic and unprecedented achievement … of achieving reunification both inside and out during these 30 years.”
Nobel laureate Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader at the time, said the celebrations were a symbol that the division of Europe had been overcome and that the Cold War was over.
“His vacation is part of a great international anniversary,” he wrote in comments on the occasion published by the German embassy in Moscow on Friday.
Gorbachev said the road to reunification had not been easy, calling the situation tense and saying that “any careless step could have caused an explosion.”
There were doubts and unrest in Europe and in the Soviet Union, and these were justified, he said.
“When the Germans of East and West declared: ‘We are the people’, what the political leaders needed was wisdom, composure, deliberation and vision.”
Together, this test passed, he said.
However, a recent poll found that around two-thirds of Germans do not see the reunification task complete.
Citizens of the Old East are still in worse shape on average than their Old West counterparts.
In areas that were previously part of the communist German Democratic Republic, 83 percent viewed reunification as incomplete, while in areas that were previously West Germany, it was only 59 percent, according to a YouGov poll.