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Modern German army marks 60th anniversary with Berlin celebration

Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen urged European unity in her speech marking 60 years of the modern German army. Thousands of soldiers are set to help with the refugee crisis, officials say.

German President Joachim Gauck and national parliament (Bundestag) President Norbert Lammert attended the military procession in Berlin late Wednesday, along with 2,500 guests.

In her speech in front of the German parliament building,

Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen

stressed that European countries were not only connected by freedom and prosperity but also bound by common security issues.

"We Europeans will only endure with utmost solidarity and unity in this fast-changing world," von der Leyen said. "This means that everybody has to bear their fair share of joint responsibility."

Many observers saw this as an allusion to the current refugee crisis in which many partners of Germany in Europe have taken measures to prevent migrants coming on to their territory.

The EU flag symbolizes trust but also mutual obligations, von der Leyen said.

Also on Wednesday night, several hundred protesters rallied against the celebration on the Berlin Rosenthaler square.

Foreign missions claim lives

The Bundeswehr was created in November 1955, ten years after Germany was defeated in World War II. The army can only be deployed if the German parliament approves it with a majority vote. German soldiers have been continuously involved in foreign missions since 1992 with some 380,000 soldiers taking part in operation overseas, according to Bundestag President Lammert. Over a hundred soldiers have been killed while on duty, Lammert said.

Watch video 01:38

Bundeswehr celebrates its 60th birthday

There are currently

2,960 German soldiers active

in sixteen missions outside Germany. Almost twice as many soldiers are ready to help the authorities in Germany cope with the refugee crisis, Lammert said.

Meanwhile, the German federal government is expected to increase the number of soldiers stationed in Afghanistan from 130 to 980 servicemen.

Rainer Arnold, defense spokesman for the SPD parliamentary group, confirmed to the German Internet blog "Augen Geradeaus!" the likelihood of a significant increase in Germany's military presence in Afghanistan.

Bundeswehr soldiers are currently stationed in the conflict-torn country to advise Afghan security personnel.

dj/jm (Reuters,dpa, DW)

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