Speech

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on receiving the Manfred Wörner medal

  • 06 Nov. 2019 -
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  • Last updated: 07 Nov. 2019 10:20

(As delivered)

Minister Kramp-Karrenbauer.

First of all, thank you so much for presenting me with this Manfred Wörner Medal.

It is really a great honour to receive this medal and also to receive it at this very solemn and … [inaudible] ceremony.

And thank you also for everything you do for the NATO Alliance and for the personal commitment to our Alliance. And, as you said, your first visit after you became Minister of Defence, was to Brussels.  And I really appreciate the close cooperation you and I have established.  And I admire your leadership, your strong commitment to NATO and the transatlantic bond.

So it is really a pleasure to be working with you.

And then, Ambassador Ischinger, thank you so much for your kind words.  And also, as usual … as always, for your thought-provoking remarks.

It is an honour to receive this award because it is a very special a very special group of people have received this award before me.

People like Richard Holbrooke, the very first recipient.

Javier Solana - as you mentioned, one of my predecessors in NATO.

And then, of course, you yourself Wolfgang! 

So that makes it even greater for me to receive this award.

This medal recognises outstanding contributions to peace and freedom.

So I am particularly honoured to achieve and to accept this award, as we celebrate the 70th Anniversary of NATO.

In just a few days, we will also commemorate 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

And as we stand here tonight in Berlin, at the intersection between what was east and what was west, it is hard to underestimate how profoundly these two events shaped Europe’s history.

This medal is given in the memory of one of my predecessors, Manfred Wörner.

From the moment I stepped into office as Secretary General of NATO, I knew I was standing on the shoulders of giants.

And Manfred Wörner was one of those giants.

A passionate visionary and a committed multilateralist.

He helped to steer Europe and our Alliance through a period of momentous change.

With our first German Secretary General in NATO at the fall of the Berlin Wall, we truly had the right leader, in the right job, at the right time.

So moved was Manfred Wörner by the winds of change that swept through Berlin that night, that he jumped into his car and left Brussels without telling anyone.

Colleagues in NATO only discovered his whereabouts when they saw him standing side-by-side with Foreign Minister Hans Dietrich Genscher on German TV.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Manfred Wörner was instrumental in ensuring NATO extended the hand of friendship to central and eastern Europe.

Paving the way for those new democracies to join our family of free nations following their sovereign decisions.

And he was the first NATO Secretary General ever to cross Moscow’s Red Square, at a time of great optimism that we could walk a new path together with Russia.

Then, when war ravaged the Western Balkans, Manfred Wörner was determined that NATO should act.

To end the bloodshed and atrocities.

A responsibility he felt deeply and personally.

So much so, that even while fighting cancer in 1994, he chaired a meeting of NATO Allies attached to a drip.

To lead discussions on NATO’s first ever combat mission beyond our borders in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

To this day, NATO supports peace and stability in the Western Balkans, in particular through our KFOR Mission in Kosovo, where Germany plays an important role.

Germany contributes to European and transatlantic security in many other ways.

It leads NATO’s multinational battlegroup in Lithuania.

It is the second largest contributor to our training mission in Afghanistan.

And it supports NATO’s other missions and activities, including our maritime operations.

 Next spring, Germany will be the logistic hub for the United States Defender 2020 Exercise.

The largest deployment of US-based forces to Europe for an exercise in 25 years.

A clear demonstration of the United States’ ironclad commitment to NATO and to the defence of Europe.

And of Germany’s importance at the heart of our collective defence.

NATO has been the bedrock of German security for over 60 years.

Alongside the European Union, NATO is a fundamental pillar of the rules-based order that has ensured unprecedented peace and prosperity in Europe.

In 1955, we welcomed West Germany into the NATO family.

This was a remarkable display of trust, just ten years after the end of World War Two.

Trust that Germany has proven more than worthy of.

And this paved the way for a democratic, reunited Germany to regain its place on the global stage.

So Germany knows how important friends and Allies are.

How important the bond between Europe and North America is.

And how important strong multilateral institutions continue to be.

For what can be more multilateral than sharing the responsibilities of keeping our one billion citizens safe?

All for one and one for all.

Six months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Manfred Wörner said:

“Without the Atlantic Alliance there can be no cohesion and no unity throughout the free world. No transatlantic partnership. No security and no stability.”

This is as true today as it was 30 years ago, and indeed 70 years ago.

We cannot take peace and democracy for granted.

We must invest in them every single day.

So in honour of Manfred Wörner, in celebration of NATO, and in the continued service of peace and freedom, thank you again for honouring me with this award. Thank you so much.