In her first public speech in around six months, former German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the Russian attack on Ukraine as a “profound caesura”. As the off-duty Chancellor, she does not want to make any assessments from the sidelines, Merkel said on Wednesday evening in Berlin. But Russia’s invasion of its neighboring country marked too much a blatant breach of international law in the history of Europe after the end of the Second World War.
“My solidarity goes to Ukraine, which has been attacked and invaded by Russia, and to supporting their right to self-defense,” Merkel said. She supports all relevant efforts by the federal government, the EU, the USA, NATO, the G7 and the UN “to stop this barbaric war of aggression by Russia”.
After months of public reticence, Merkel gave the eulogy in front of more than 200 guests when the long-time DGB boss Reiner Hoffmann said goodbye. Among the guests were numerous companions of Hoffmann from politics and trade unions.
No one can seriously estimate how far-reaching the consequences of the war would be, Merkel said. However, they would be significant – especially for Ukrainians. Merkel addressed human rights violations against the population. “Butscha is representative of this horror,” she said, referring to the shootings in the city west of Kyiv.
A small but great ray of hope “in this infinite sadness” is the enormous support for the Ukrainians from many neighboring countries – such as Poland and Moldova, as Merkel emphasized by way of example.
“We should never take peace and freedom for granted,” Merkel said. In the current situation, the unity of the EU is key. The CDU politician, who did not stand in the Bundestag elections in September, called on people in Germany to make their own contributions to European unity.
At the same time, Merkel demonstrated that she was letting go of her former duties. Somehow MPK is already tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, Merkel said. In fact, a prime ministerial conference is taking place this Thursday. Merkel: “I can get through the day without it.”
Merkel and Hoffmann, who led the DGB from 2014, had many points of contact in their respective careers – including at the cabinet meetings at Meseberg Castle. In her “first speech in almost half a year”, as she put it herself, Merkel praised the social partnership in the country and called for it to be strengthened.
Hoffmann was replaced in May by former SPD general secretary Yasmin Fahimi. In parting, he announced that he wanted to continue to get involved at European level: “Anyone who thinks I’ll be gone will be disappointed.”