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Germany's Steinmeier calls for 'fair peace' in Ukraine

Nik Martin
Published December 24, 2022last updated December 25, 2022

During his Christmas speech, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for peace in Ukraine after 10 months of "terrible suffering."

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier during the recording of his annual Christmas speech at the presidential Bellevue palace in Berlin, Germany on December 22, 2022
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier addressed the war in Ukraine in his Christmas speech to the nationImage: Tobias Schwarz/AP Photo/picture alliance

Steinmeier's cautiously optimistic Christmas speech

In a national address broadcast on Sunday, Christmas Day, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier lamented the lack of peace in Ukraine, 10 months to the day since Russia launched its invasion.

"Our most fervent wish is most certainly that peace reigns again," Steinmeier said in his Christmas speech to the nation.

Steinmeier: Helping Ukraine is 'a humanitarian imperative'

The German president noted how Russia's brutal war, which began on February 24, had led to the "terrible suffering" of the Ukrainian people, "as well as the fear that the hostilities will spread."

Ukrainian refugees stay safe in Germany

Steinmeier began his seasonal message by recounting a recent meeting with 50 Ukrainian child refugees during a visit to the town of Freiberg.

The youngsters had fled the war with their mothers and are now living in the eastern German state of Saxony.

He noted how many have "experienced terrible things" that left them "so frightened that even a door banging shut leaves them shaking."

"The primary school children in Freiberg and their families in Ukraine long for peace even more ardently than we do. However, this peace is not yet within reach," he said.

Steinmeier said that when it comes, there "must be a fair peace that neither rewards the land grab nor abandons people in Ukraine to the arbitrary actions and violence of their occupiers."

A Ukrainian family builds a new life in Berlin

It is a "humanitarian imperative that we stand by those who are being attacked, threatened and oppressed," he added.

The speech also included a thank-you to German residents who had helped others this year.

Germany has taken in around a million Ukrainian refugees, and the government has made humanitarian aid commitments to Ukraine of nearly €2 billion ($2.12 billion), according to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy's (IfW Kiel) Ukraine support tracker.

German residents have joined in a global push for aid, with tens of thousands of volunteers raising money and sourcing essential supplies. Some have delivered essential items including food, clothes and medicine to the war-torn country despite the safety risks.

Tough year economically

Steinmeier acknowledged that the war was also having an impact at home, especially economically. But he noted how the government had reduced the "heaviest burdens" — a reference to a program of subsidies introduced to offset the soaring cost of energy.

"Yes, times are tough. We are facing headwinds," he said.

"Nonetheless, Christmas in particular is the right time to look at those things that give us hope. They do exist," he said. "We have not panicked, nor have we allowed ourselves to be divided."

Climate action needs both young and old

Turning to the climate emergency, Steinmeier noted it was vital that Germans stay the course in the transition to renewable energies.

The energy crisis, exacerbated by the war, has temporarily spurred the extension of three nuclear and several coal power plants, which Germany had hoped to phase out by now.

"No matter how preoccupied we are with other worries at present: The fight against climate change has lost none of its urgency either. It cannot wait and it needs all of us to address it," the president said.

He also urged both older and younger generations to work together to tackle environmental challenges.

"For we need both: the ambition of the young and the experience of older people."

Message of hope

Steinmeier ended his speech by noting how citizens had, despite the obstacles, achieved more this year than many would have thought possible.

"We acted with resolve when our help was needed. We stood up for each other. I am proud of our country," he said.

"What lies at our core, what has always made us strong, will endure: "We are creative, hard-working and willing to show solidarity. We can draw strength and hope from this for the new year."

This is an updated version of a previously published article.

Edited by: Rebecca Staudenmaier and Jenipher Camino Gonzalez

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