Inextricably linked with Jacques Delors’ term from 1985 to 1995 are the Maastricht treaties and the concept of eastward expansion of the European Union. Delors left his mark on this era of European politics like no one else. Without his foresight, without his intellectual convictions, without his perseverance, without his determination it would not have been possible to overcome the many obstacles that stood in the way of the great progress towards European unity before the fall of the Berlin wall and afterwards.
The fall of the wall, ladies and gentlemen, the result of the great European freedom revolution of 1989, re-established Europe, rationally and emotionally.
Never in the long, colorful history of Europe were the Europeans in North and South, in East and West so close in their aspirations and hopes, in their fears and cares as in 1989. Everywhere in Europe, people’s thoughts and yearnings were with Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel, with the demonstrators in Leipzig and everywhere in the GDR. They were with the reformers in Hungary and with Gorbachev and Shevardnadze in Moscow.
In Prague, the Czech people were hoping along with the refugees in the German Embassy because they knew that their path to freedom would also mean freedom for what was then Czechoslovakia.
The emotional unity of the Europeans at that time is not only a precious heritage; it is also the mandate not to let up on the way to an even closer union of our continent.
The man who is being honored today with the first ever Leonardo Award in 2010 is a great European and as a German, I am very grateful to him for his commitment to the simultaneous admission of the former GDR when it was united with the Federal Republic of Germany, which made the smooth transition to the European community possible. Those who have any idea of the difficulties of the admission talks with our members who were long prevented by the wall and barbed wire, by the iron curtain, from being members of our European community will understand what it meant to integrate the 17 million Germans in the GDR to the European Union without any such negotiations. Delors anticipated these difficulties, but he did not allow himself to be deterred by them. He implemented what the first freely elected People’s Assembly had decided – the GDR joined the FRG and the European Union in 1990.
I take great satisfaction in being able to say this 20 years later.
Ladies and gentlemen, Europe owes a great deal to Jacques Delors. But we Germans are especially in his debt. When the question arose in the UNESCO as to who should head an international commission on education, they turned to Jacques Delors.
They could not have made a better choice. The visionary and realist, the analyst and practitioner Jacques Delors was the person who could be entrusted with this task of designing the perspectives of education in the 21st century.
Today we must shape the process of globalization, which has long become an ever more rapidly accelerating reality. It affects all areas of life for all areas of life, in every segment of our society and our economy.
This means that we must have people all over the world who are capable of recognizing the impact of globalization and meeting the challenges. This expectation, ladies and gentlemen, poses a challenge for education in the most comprehensive sense of the word in the era of globalization. This was also the reason for the UNESCO to convene an international conference to achieve these requirements. The acceleration of all political, economic, social, scientific, and technical developments has long since belied the expectation that knowledge acquired early in life is a guarantee for lifelong competence.
Lifelong learning, as shown in the Delors Report, is indispensable if the ability to shape the future is to be maintained. Education and then more education throughout all phases of life must be the absolute focus of priorities for government and society here in our country as well.
The Delors Report should be required reading for all persons in positions of responsibility in government, business, and society; that would be a good common bond and a task for society as a whole.
Ladies and gentlemen, Europe as a motor of education – a pleasant outlook. The four pillars of education that were mentioned here – learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together, and learning to be – these four pillars sum it all up. This is the formula for the future of human progress, the precondition for peaceful and sustainable development and for long-lasting peace.
In an especially striking way, the awareness of global interdependence is expressed over and over again in the thought processes of the report of the Delors commission.
The key to understanding and coping with the global challenges lies in the proper understanding of this global interdependence, this global mutual dependence. It begins with the realization that there are no longer any remote areas in this world.
But awareness must first be created for mutual dependence in the era of globalization for all areas of coexistence. That does not by any means apply only to coping with economic and financial crises. It also applies to ensuring global peace and to preserving natural resources, which have not been given to us to use and exploit as much as we like, but have been entrusted to our care to ensure the sustenance of future generations.
Fighting hunger, need, disease and – often forgotten – fighting ignorance are the prerequisites for a life of human dignity all over the world. And the world can be at peace only if it is perceived everywhere to be just.
Ladies and gentlemen, knowledge empowers; knowledge liberates people.
Conscience stands for responsibility in the sense of the responsibility ethics of our time. The Delors commission views education as one of the most important tools available for a more comprehensive and harmonious kind of human development.
It is their understanding that knowledge can help overcome poverty, oppression, marginalization, and war. Currently there is a lot of discussion of the necessity of giving Europe a soul. Isn’t it more about rediscovering Europe’s already existing soul? The soul that is so marked by the inalienable dignity of man, of every person, as it says in Article 1 of our constitution and which is marked by the great intellectual and liberating heritage of the Enlightenment. The commission thinks so, for the report demands that we understand the relationship with pluralism as the appreciation and recognition of other cultures. The demands in the Delors Report are a description of the global challenges.
They make it clear for practical policies what the German-American, the German-Jewish philosopher Hans Jonas describes in his later work “The Imperative of Responsibility.” The imperative of responsibility as Jonas understands it is the translation of Immanuel Kant’s “Categorical Imperative”, the reality of the 21st century.
Undesirable developments and failures in our time will have a more sustained and negative impact on future generations than has ever before been the case in the history of man.
This is why Jonas’s policy of responsibility is a precondition for the survival of humans in global interdependency. Considering the consequences is a task for society as a whole with constantly changing aspects and challenges. This is what makes it necessary to encourage lifelong learning along the lines of the four pillars of the Delors Report; meeting the ever more rapidly changing and newly arising challenges, the large and the small ones which are all fundamentally significant, this is more than just imparting knowledge.
This is the precondition for peaceful coexistence and survival in the global human community. This means that understanding everywhere in the world, that global interdependence has made humanity a responsible society. And our world order has long become a global community of neighbors.
Today, everyone is everyone’s neighbor, even if the countries do not have a common border. The financial crisis in the US affected Europe and the impact of the nuclear catastrophe of Chernobyl did not stop at the borders of the former Soviet Union. This requires comprehensive knowledge of the development in all areas and growing understanding for people living beyond the immediate vicinity. Only a global information society can fulfill the needs of a responsible global society. What the Delors Report demands is the equipment for coping responsibly with the global challenge. It demands consensus on the new world order and its rules. If we are not capable of agreeing on these rules for human coexistence, development will not halt. It will still progress, but will be uncontrolled. And that will ultimately result in global chaos.
If we, ladies and gentlemen, view the checkered history of Europe, we see that it was a series of rivalries, power struggles, and claims to domination that pitted peoples against each other. I am not talking here about the dark 12 years of German history from 1933 to 1945. Nor am I talking about Hitler’s wars of destruction, of the holocaust, all of these perversions that Richard von Weizsäcker so accurately described on 8 May 1985. No, I am talking about the European history of rivalry before that and the resulting European wars of the past.
Today it is our responsibility to ensure that these rivalry clashes are not repeated – but this time for the whole world. Here in Europe, a new culture, a culture of coexistence between people and nations has become reality. This is the message from our continent and Europe’s vision for the entire world. Acknowledge your responsibility for others. State what needs to be done in simple terms. For in these times, when the danger of a currency war is mentioned, this is a signal that should not be ignored. The Europe of today is a Europe of cooperation. And the new world order must also be an order of cooperation. Jacques Delors, the great European knows that European unification was possible only because the members of the European community faced each other as equals, irrespective of their size.
Ladies and gentlemen, it was a twist of fate, in any case lucky coincidence, that the six founding nations were three smaller and three larger ones. They showed that Europe of the second half of the 20th century had learned from history in the truest sense of the word. As we attempt to create a new world order today, Europe can contribute its experience from the era after World War II to the great global debate.
And part of this is the basic understanding of the new world order. What counts is the power of right, not the right of the powerful.
This precludes insisting on any perceived cultural superiority or looking down on the cultures of other peoples.
These are just the insights that Jacques Delors contributed in his vision for education. Knowledge of the other is the precondition for accepting the other. This is what makes it so important to understand the concept of education in the most comprehensive meaning of the word and to view it as a task for life.
Educating the heart is part of this and demands an awareness of responsibility. The more one knows about this world, the more one knows about other people and other parts of the world, the more immunity one has from unfounded fears and even more so, from. Knowledge makes one invulnerable to the simplifiers and the populists. Prejudices are a poison, a poison that works its way into the hearts and minds of people, that separates thoughts and actions from responsibility, thus freeing the path for injustice. The new culture of coexistence in Europe should also determine global actions. This requires that we understand this world, our world, as a responsible society of the present and the future.
Ladies and gentlemen, this world – if it is to be at peace – must be a world of encounters and openness and cooperation. A world that is by no means inevitably condemned to confrontation and the clash of civilizations.
It is true, culture defines identity, but it is not capable of marginalization or exclusion. Culture means openness and any attempt to place cultures in a hierarchy of higher and lower leads to the opposite of culture.
Openness and knowledge of the others are what matter. Only in this way can we discover and understand each other and then come together. Heinz Kühn is right when he reminds us not to forget that the writings of all great world religions have all the elements that Kant defines as prerequisites for lasting peace. They only need to be revealed, discovered. They cannot be just pushed aside in elitist arrogance. Culture includes the will to free the world from the poison of these prejudices that are bred in the delusion of superiority.
Ladies and Gentlemen, in a remarkable essay Christa Wolf writes, “We know when war begins.” She then asks, “When does the pre-war begin?” We are tempted to add: "Where does the pre-war begin?"
It begins in the minds and hearts of people. There, where prejudices against others take root. Living with an awareness of one’s own culture and respecting other cultures protect a person from the hubris of his own presumed cultural superiority. This is the reason why knowing about one another is so important.
Yes, knowledge is power. Power against intransigence, narrow-mindedness, against elitist arrogance, against resistance to progress and contempt of others. Lifelong learning means lifelong acquisition and dissemination of knowledge – this is the message that J.D., the great European and great humanist conveys to us. It is a pioneering act to give your award to persons who offer visions all across Europe and thus for the whole world such as lifelong learning in every form, who create beacon projects, who by imparting knowledge and education open hearts and minds for educating the heart, for which there can be no more dignified society in the global world. Who ladies and gentlemen, could be more worthy of receiving this award than Jacques Delors, the great European who became a visionary for the challenge of learning to know, to do, to live together, to be?
This is far more than professional skills. This is the appeal to responsible policy in a responsible global society. What he and his commission presented is the European canon of education for a new world order.
Ladies and gentlemen, let us all congratulate Jacques Delors heartily on this tremendous award.