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- Germany marks 30th anniversary of fall of Berlin Wall
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier makes his speech on Saturday. Photo: Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa
Recalling the United States' key role in helping to bring down the hated Wall separating communist East Germany from the capitalist West, Steinmeier said he still hears the late American president Ronald Reagan's cry of “tear down this wall” at the iconic Brandenburg Gate.
But in a swipe at Trump's America First policy and his insistence on building a wall on the southern border with Mexico, Steinmeier voiced a yearning for a return of the transatlantic partner of the past.
“This America as a mutually respectful partner, as a partner for democracy and freedom, against national egoism — that is what I hope for in the future too,” said Steinmeier.
The German president's sharp words, as he opened festivities at the spot where Reagan once stood, underlined growing tensions between the traditional allies.
Germany has been deeply rattled by Trump's go-it-alone attitude on issues ranging from Iranian nuclear policy to trade with Europe and climate change.
From Washington, Trump sent a message of congratulations for the commemoration, adding that the US “will continue working with Germany, one of our most treasured allies, to ensure that the flames of freedom burn as a beacon of hope and opportunity for the entire world to see.”
But unlike the optimism at previous commemorations of the epochal event on November 9, 1989 that brought the communist regime crashing down, three decades on, the mood has soured as the Western alliance that helped secure the liberal democracy is riddled with divisions.
Within Germany too, a chasm has opened up with the far-right gaining a strong foothold in the former communist east on the back of its nationalist and anti-immigration message.
For Steinmeier, “a new wall has arisen that cuts through our country — a wall of frustration, a wall of anger and hate”.
“Walls that are invisible but which divide. Walls that stand in the way of our cohesion,” he warned, as he called on Germans to “tear down these walls, at long last.”