Address by Ambassador Martin Erdmann
(As prepared for delivery)
Dear members of the NATO Archives Committee,
Dear colleagues of the NATO Archives,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Last month, we marked the 60th anniversary of Germany’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. On 6 May 1955, a mere six years after NATO was founded, Germany became the Alliance’s 15th member country. This was a day of great political significance, both for the young Federal Republic and for the North Atlantic Alliance.
It is hard to find another country whose recent history is as tightly interwoven with NATO as is Germany’s. For us, joining NATO only ten years after the end of the Second World War was an unparalleled historic event. Germany’s accession to NATO in 1955 was not only a defence policy decision, in that we chose a true anchor of security in a stormy day and age. Much more than that, it is part of our raison d’état, and was the foundation on which Germany could be reunited:
- The Paris Agreements were signed in October 1954. They created the basis on which Germany was able to regain extensive sovereignty.
- This included rearmament of the young Federal Republic. Only by firmly anchoring Germany in the Western Alliance did this decision – a decision that was controversial at the time – even become possible. The Federal Armed Forces, which this year are celebrating their 60th anniversary as well, are true NATO armed forces like none other.
- Moreover, NATO accession completed the irreversible political anchoring of Germany in the Western community of values. We chart a common course, one that is guided by the compasses of freedom, democracy and the rule of law.
- 35 years after accession, NATO membership enabled then-divided Germany to achieve reunification in conditions of peace and freedom. Later in the year, we will also mark the 25th anniversary of this momentous occasion.
During its history, Germany has benefited in a unique way from NATO membership. Former occupiers became Allies. To this day, we are deeply grateful for the considerable confidence that was placed in us back in 1955. And to this day, we rejoice in our historical good fortune: Germany’s reunification and the end of the division of Europe, which only became possible thanks to this solid foundation. All this characterizes Germany’s deeply-felt connection with NATO.
In today’s stormy security environment – at what can even be called a turning point – it is essential that we return to our founding principles: We have pledged to collectively ensure the defence of our fellow Allies, as is most decisively set out in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. Today, 60 years after accession, Germany is demonstrating its gratitude, through the substantial contributions we are making to implement the decisions taken at Wales, and in preparation for the Warsaw Summit.
Our eyes are set on the future. Yet now, we should together look back at that historic moment for which Germany can be so grateful. This impressive collection of material speaks for itself. I want to express my special thanks to our colleagues at the NATO Archives: thank you for the great attention to detail with which you have documented and brought to life the time spanning from the membership invitation to Germany’s actual accession to the Alliance. These are invaluable drawings, photographs and documents.