President Joachim Gauck has used a nationally televised speech to call for greater cooperation among the European Union’s member states. The speech comes a year after Gauck took office as Germany’s head of state.
Speaking in front of 200 invited guests at his official residence, the Schloss Bellevue palace in Berlin, President Gauck called for what he described as “more Europe,” while at the same time addressing some of the fears of ordinary EU citizens, including those regarding the eurozone's sovereign debt crisis.
The president conceded that a "structural flaw led to an imbalance in the European Union which was only patched up by emergency measures, such as the European Stability Mechanism and the fiscal compact."
He also condeded that most of what the EU's 500 million citizens have read or heard about the 27-member bloc over the past few years has tended to be about the eurozone crisis.
However, he also noted that there were many more elements to the crisis than just the economic dimension.
"It is also a crisis of confidence in Europe as a political project. This is not just a struggle for our currency; we are struggling with an internal quandary too."
Gauck outlines achievements
The president then went on to remind his audience, which was largely made up of people under the age of 30, of the achievements of the European Union since it began as a trading block in the post-war years - including the fact that the bloc has been at peace ever since.
Gauck noted that many younger Europeans in particular may take for granted the fact that they can travel across the continent without having to use their passports or change their currency.
He also highlighted Germany's deep attachment to the European Union.
"After all, it was from our country that the attempts to destroy everything European, all universal values were unleashed. Despite everything that happened, the Allies granted our country support and solidarity straight after the war," he said. "We were invited, received and welcomed."
The president also stressed that despite its economic might, Berlin had no aspirations of imposing "a German diktat."
"It is my heartfelt conviction that in Germany more Europe does not mean a German Europe. For us, more Europe means a European Germany," Gauck said.
Appeal to Britain - stay with us
The president also used his speech to reach out to Great Britain, where Prime Minister David Cameron recently promised to call a referendum on the country's membership in the EU.
"We would like you [Britain] to stay with us," Gauck said. "We need your experience as the oldest parliamentary democracy, we need your traditions, your pragmatism and your courage…. More Europe cannot mean a Europe without you!"
The German president wrapped up his speech by calling on the EU's citizens to continue to build the bloc.
He said he was "delighted" that 2013 had been designated the European Year of Citizens.
"I would not want to go so far as the authors of the Manifesto for Rebuilding Europe, but I very much like the banner under which many supporters have already gathered: 'Don't ask what Europe can do for you but ask what you can do for Europe,'" Gauck said.