Embattled German President Christian Wulff has used his annual Christmas address to call for an end to xenophobia, but made no further comment on the ongoing scandal over his private finances.
In a speech that highlighted the need for social engagement and tolerance, the German head of state addressed the nation from his Bellevue Palace, surrounded by a diverse group of model citizens from all over the country, who, he said, each in their own way had contributed to society.
It is social cohesion, Christian Wulff said, that would continue to be crucial for Germany's - and Europe's - future, especially now as many people worry about the debt crisis and Europe’s growing disunity.
"Europe is our mutual home and our rich heritage," Wulff said. "It stands for the great values of freedom, human rights, and social security."
'No place for xenophobia'
Wulff also addressed the series of murders committed by a neo-Nazi group operating in Germany over the past decade. He stressed that all Germans should be able to live in safety.
"We were all shocked to learn that racially motivated criminals planned the murders of foreigners over a span of several years,” Wulff said. “We never thought this was possible."
The president added that conversations he had had with relatives of the victims moved him greatly. Some lost only a loved one, but were also suspected themselves of being involved in the crimes.
"In our country there is a no place for xenophobia, violence and political extremism," he said.
Wulff thanked all Germans active in the fight for peace and welfare abroad
Thanks from abroad
An open society, Wulff continued, was also responsible for the welfare of people living in other parts of the world.
"We are also thinking this evening about those who are far away from home in the fight for peace and security, most of all about our soldiers,” he said.
According to Wulff, Germans enjoy a good reputation abroad because essentially no other country has a greater willingness to help other.
"This is why I hear so many words of thanks abroad. And I would like to give this thanks to you, because we can be proud of our country," Wulff said.
Wulff made no further mention of the accusations leveled against him in connection with a dubious bank loan that has caused a storm in the media.
Earlier this week, the president apologized for not being more open about the situation but said he intended to stay on as head of state despite having "irritated" his countrymen.
Author: Peter Stützle / glb
Editor: Toma Tasovac