The 70th anniversary of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany was celebrated in Berlin and Karlsruhe on Thursday.
“The constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany is a constant guarantor of stability, freedom and the rule of law,” said the German government in a statement.
“Its founders showed great foresight 70 years ago” by affirming that Germany was “at the service of a united Europe and peace in the world,” the German government said.
In a recent blog post, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that “when the constitution was enacted on 23 May 1949, it was not yet clear which success story had its beginnings there”.
On Thursday, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier invited citizens from all over Germany to discuss the constitution with the heads of Germany’s constitutional bodies.
“70 years later we live in a reunited country, in a strong democracy, in peace, even in friendship with our neighbors. Yes, this constitution, these 20,000 words, they are always a reason to celebrate,” said the German president in his welcoming speech.
But freedom needed rules, for which the German constitution set the framework, according to the German president.
The German constitution “says what is not negotiable in our democracy” but decency and reason needed to be preserved “in spite of all freedom and even in the zeal of argument,” Steinmeier stressed.
The German president appealed to German politics and the media to take citizens’ concerns and needs seriously and to act on them to prevent citizens from feeling powerless.
“Powerlessness is poison for democracy,” warned Steinmeier. “Populists take perfidious advantage of such feelings. They turn justified worries into blind rage”.
In a similar vein, Thomas Haldenwang, president of Germany’s domestic intelligence service (BfV) stressed that “our democracy must also be able to defend itself in cyberspace” in an age of digitization and global online networks.
The president of the German Bundestag, Wolfgang Schaeuble, called for flexibility in following the German constitution.
“Our tendency to perfection should not lead us to permit our rules to become so rigid that we can no longer reform them,” cautioned Schaeuble in an article for the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
The German constitution was pronounced on May 23, 1949, and subsequently entered into force for the Federal Republic of Germany.
In the same year, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) adopted its own constitution. After German reunification in 1990, the constitution of the Federal Republic became binding for all of Germany.
The press and information office of the German government announced it would be attending a number of events taking place across Germany until October “to provide information on the constitution and to enter into dialogue with local people”.