Dear friends of Germany, liebe Freundinnen und Freunde Deutschlands,
With the year 2019 drawing to a close, it is time to reflect on what this year has brought but also to look ahead. Reflecting on the past, makes it easier to look forward as you get a better sense of what are short lived fashions and what are more deep-seated trends, I always find.
2019 has again been a busy year for the team of the German Consulate General in Toronto. We have seen a further increase of mutual visits and cooperation.
Numerous delegations from Germany travelled to Toronto. In August, German foreign minister Heiko Maas met with his Canadian counterpart Chrystia Freeland in Toronto and also discussed at the Vector Institute issues related to Artifical Intelligence. Already in July, the Prime Minister of the State of Hesse, Volker Bouffier, visited Ontario accompanied by a comprehensive delegation of the Hesse business and science community. Aiming at further improving political, business and scientific cooperation lots of fruitful meetings with the government of Ontario and many other institutions took place.
Members of the Bundestag and the parliaments of several German states came to Ontario as well as ministers of the states of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and Hesse. Delegations of academics and representatives of various research institutions significantly contributed to further improve the scientific cooperation between Canada and Germany. Another indicator of the high profile of German science in Toronto and beyond was the founding of the German Academic Society of Toronto in January 2019, which we celebrated during an inaugural event that I had the pleasure to host at my residence.
Ministers of the government of Ontario travelled to Germany, as well as Canadian journalists, immigration experts and representatives of many other important Torontonian institutions. Together with the Canadian German Chamber of Commerce and Industry we organized meetings with the business community and with political leaders aiming at fostering economic ties between Ontario and Germany even further. The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union creates a wider, safer, more modern trade between Canada and EU, regardless of the direction of the goods and services. With 98% elimination of tariffs, CETA offers a passage that is virtually toll-free.
The Goethe-Institute and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) have been great partners for many political, cultural and scientific events. We are proud that exactly 30 years after the wall came down the German contribution to the European Film Festival in Toronto “Ballon” about a family who managed to flee from East to West Germany won the EUFF audience award.
In times where populist movements or politicians try to polarize societies in many countries it seems to be more important than ever to focus on topics such as freedom of the media. For our first German-Canadian media symposium we invited German and Canadian journalists to discuss the topic “(Un) Truth – Journalism and Democracy in the Digital Age”. It was fascinating to see how different views enriched and complemented one another and how well this joint event with Massey College and the University of Toronto’s Communication Department was perceived. In 2020, we will again tackle an important issue relevant to media and politics.
We are now heading into the long Canadian winter. This is a time to particularly remember most vulnerable e in our society, many of them not being able to sustain a living.
The homeless in are suffering from cold temperatures and lacking shelter. Last February, in a wonderful cooperation between my French colleague and me as well as both our teams, we organized a volunteering event where all of us helped out in a foodbank preparing and serving French and German food but also engaging in conversations with the guests of the Church of the Redeemer program.
Canada and Germany share and support the same values.
In June a team of the Consulate participated in the Pride Parade, which is a colourful icon of acceptance and tolerance in the city.
With xenophobia, racism and antisemitism rising in the world, in Europe and in Germany, it was even more important to be a partner of this year’s Holocaust Education Week in Toronto, like we were in previous years. The Consulate General supported a concert of German piano virtuoso Constanze Beckmann and the Schulich Singers that commemorated the life of Holocaust survivor George Brady. The concert took place only a few weeks after the terror attack on the Synagogue in Halle, Germany, in October of this year, which was another sad and deeply troubling manifestation of antisemitism in our societies. While the right wing extremist was trying to enter the building, a woman interfered and was subsequently shot and killed. In Berlin, a few days after the attack, a passer-by, again a woman, helped an elderly Jewish gentleman, who was attacked; the attacker fled. These were two acts of civil courage we can look up to and that give us hope.
Surely, and not only for me personally, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall with Canadians and Germans in Toronto was one of the most memorable events of 2019. Many of us still remember how it happened and how joyful we all were, a truly peaceful revolution. “Many small people who, in many small places do many small things that can alter the face of the world.” This quote on a mural at Berlin's Eastside Gallery attributed to German-Iranian artist Kani Alavi and French artist Muriel Raoux summarizes like no other the democratic movement that was eventually able to topple the Wall.
In 2020, we will celebrate 30 years of a reunited Germany. Since then a lot has changed in Europe and beyond. The European Union has become larger and even more important. In July 2020, Germany will assume the Presidency of the Council of the European Union following Croatia. But in 2020 we will also focus on sports and music. The UEFA EURO 2020, the European Soccer Championship, as well as the 250th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven are also good reasons to look forward to an exciting year.
And, of course, the German Consulate General together with its Canadian and German partners is already planning for other exciting events to make sure that in twelve months from now we can again look back at a good and meaningful year. Every action we take together today shapes the future of tomorrow.
But before we start “full throttle” into the New Year, I hope all of you and we altogether enjoy some time to reflect and recollect.
I wish you wonderful holidays and a healthy year 2020!
Merry Christmas und frohe Weihnachten!
Thomas E. Schultze
Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany