20 years after 1989, Berlin hosts annual Marshall Forum on Transatlantic Affairs
From October 22-25, the German Marshall Fund hosted the European Marshall Forum on Transatlantic Affairs in Berlin. The event, "20 years after 1989 -- Looking back and ahead: Are the ideals of democracy and market economy still valid?", looked at the legacy of the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago as well as current challenges and developments.
The event opened with a dinner hosted by the Deutsche Telekom. Guido Kerkhoff, Member of the Board of Deutsche Telekom, and U.S. Ambassador Philip Murphy welcomed the 200 participants to Berlin. Jens Reich, a molecular biologist who was a co-founder of one of the core opposition movements in the GDR in 1989, delivered the keynote speech, which drew a standing ovation. The speech focused on his life in the GDR and how the changes in 1989 came about, and he gave the participants a deeper understanding of what it was like to live in the GDR as well as insights on how people can change regimes they don't tolerate any more.
The second day's sessions took place at the Berlin House of Representatives, situated close to where the Berlin Wall once divided the city. The panels ranged from current challenges to NATO and Europe over eyewitness accounts of 1989 to possible solutions for the financial crisis and global security. The dinner keynote, given by Iveta Radicova, former presidential candidate in Slovakia, again addressed the theme of democratic change. In her entertaining speech, Radicova focused on how democratic political parties were formed in the former Eastern bloc after 1989 and which civil society lessons were learned in that process. The dinner was followed by two night owl sessions -- one very timely one on the recent German federal elections and the new government; the other a personal account of an East German woman who fled from the GDR in the summer of 1989 before the wall came down.
On Saturday morning, the conference was hosted by Deutsche Bank at its representation in Berlin. The three panel sessions of that morning dealt with transformative moments for cities, a German-German retrospective on 1989, and the impact of the economic crisis on labor migration. The day's morning sessions ended with remarks by Rolf-Ernst Breuer, former president of the board of Deutsche Bank. He gave his personal views on how the financial crisis developed and what needs to be done to avoid crises like this one in the future. As he no longer holds an official title, his remarks were open and frank, criticizing the baking business as well as governments' reactions to the current crisis.
On Saturday afternoon, a variety of site visits were offered to the participants in order to expose them to the city of Berlin and German history. The site visits included tours to the Chancellery and Reichstag, the Stasi memorial Hohenschonhausen, the Berlin borough of Kreuzberg, and more.
The closing evening reception was held at the Gesellschaft fuer Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) with final remarks by New York Times Paris Bureau Chief Steven Erlanger, who put the developments of 1989 into a larger, global context.
Related: MMF alum Martin Ehl wrote about his experience at Marshall Forum in the Czech daily Hospodarske Noviny.