German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier expressed gratitude towards Poles, Czechs, Slovaks and Hungarians for opposition to communist regimes.
“Without the courage and thirst for freedom of Poles, Hungarians, Czechs and Slovaks, the peaceful revolutions in Eastern Europe and the unification of Germany would not be possible. This was a great historical achievement, but we all remember that thanks to these events, today we can joyfully declare that we are united in Europe,” said Mr Steinmeier.
His speech was part of the commemorations of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, an event seen as the symbolic end of communist rule in Central and Eastern Europe. The ceremony, which took place at the former site of the Berlin Wall, was attended by the Presidents of Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Germany, as well as by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
After the main ceremonies, the gathered heads of state laid roses at the monument commemorating the contribution of the Visegrad Group nations to the downfall of communist regimes. Mr Steinmeier and Mrs Merkel paid respects to those who lost their lives trying to escape from communist-controlled East Germany to West Berlin.
The Berlin Wall was constructed in 1961 in order to stop the emigration of Germans living in the communist-controlled East Germany to the democratic West Germany. During the 28 years of its existence, the communist border police shot dead hundreds of people attempting to cross it.
The fall of the wall on November 9, 1989, became the symbol of the collapse of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the transition to liberal democracy and free-market economies.