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Speech delivered to German government officials, Berlin-based diplomatic corps, and German business community on the occasion of Canada Day

June 30, 2022

My five German Years

Stéphane Dion
Ambassador of Canada to Germany and Special Envoy of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the European Union and Europe

Dear friends of Canada,

Chers amis du Canada,

Liebe Freunde Kanadas!

After two long pandemic years, what a pleasure to host you in-person for Canada Day!

It is a joy for me, of course, but mixed with melancholy, because it is the last time that I will be presiding over the Canada Day celebrations in Germany.

Indeed, after five years as Canada's Ambassador to Germany and the Prime Minister's Special Envoy to the EU and Europe, Prime Minister Trudeau has asked me to continue as his Special Envoy, but from Paris rather than Berlin. Thus, I will be departing Germany after five years and will have the honour to take on, this fall, my new role as Ambassador to France, and to Monaco.

I will be happy to continue to serve my country in Europe, to help advance the many values and interests that Canadians and Europeans share for peace, security, justice, democracy, inclusive society, mutually beneficial trade, prosperity and environmental sustainability. As such, I am delighted that I will have the opportunity to keep working with Germany to make our world a better place.

I will be very happy to arrive in Paris. But for the moment, I must tell you that I await with sadness my departure from Berlin. I will savour every day I have left in this city and this country. I'm sure all the diplomats here today understand how I feel. In fact, in five years, I have never met a diplomat, from any country, who was unhappy in Berlin. In my opinion, such a person does not exist!

I am sometimes asked if it is difficult for a Canadian to adapt to Germany. I can assure you that it is not. From the mountains of Bavaria to the beaches of Rügen, to the countless vibrant cultural settings in between, there are strong similarities between Germans and Canadians, in terms of values, civility, love of nature and the outdoors. The same federative spirit too, the strong personality of each region, of each Land, the desire to distribute the country's assets well, instead of grouping everything in the capital.

Oh sure, in looking hard enough I can find two adjustment difficulties, but there's nothing anyone can do about it. First, the long winters in Berlin without snow, when we are far from the mountains. These dark winter evenings, without the sparkling whiteness of the Canadian carpet of snow I am used to, it's a bit hard for a Quebec City kid like me.

Second, surprise surprise, the language. Language! Yes, Mark Twain was right to say that eternity exists to have time to learn German. In any case, for me, five years of hard work were not enough. It must be said that every time you try to practice their language, Germans cut you off and express themselves in excellent English. And when they detect my French accent, some start talking to me in crystal clear French. But be assured, I did what I could to master your language because I considered each of my speeches to be a unique opportunity to sincerely covey how much you mattered to me and to Canadians.

When I arrived in Berlin, German-Canadian relations were already excellent, but the pressure was strong to improve them even more, for all sorts of reasons. The transition from the Obama to the Trump Administration was a bit complicated for the Merkel government, I don't need to insist on that, which favored an even closer cooperation with the Trudeau government.

The Paris Agreement on climate change had just been ratified, which provided for close collaboration with this champion of clean technologies and this half-continent abounding in critical resources that is Canada.

Brexit had just occurred, the recession of 2008 was still shaking Europe, the great migratory wave of 2015 had its shock waves. In short, all kinds of difficulties were arising, but on the other hand the European Union and Canada had just concluded a strategic and free trade agreement, a kind of light at the end of the tunnel --CETA. The agreement so beneficial to our two countries that I am optimistic Germany will soon ratify.

Over the last five years, with the creation of the Canada-Germany Energy Partnership, the Canada-Germany High Level Steering Group on Bilateral Cooperation, the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the German-Canadian scientific cooperation, Canada as Guest of Honour, two years in a row, at the Frankfurt Book Fair, by far the largest book fair in the world, Kanada Focus events in cultural festivals across the country, as well as through innumerable exchanges between political leaders, business leaders, and the people to people connections, Germany and Canada have given themselves new tools to always take their mutual assistance and cooperation further.

It makes us dream of a better world, where all countries could have a friendship as rich, fruitful and unfailing as that of Germany and Canada. Can we imagine such a world?

I believe, without presumption, that you will all agree that Canada has been a supportive partner for Germany and Europe over the past five years, as the most European of non-European countries.

If I was able to contribute to this, I know that I owe it a lot to my team at our embassy and consulates. The Canadian diplomats who pass the posting competitions for Germany are really the crème de la crème. I am a pampered ambassador. I am proud of what this team, a strong blend of German and Canadian personnel, has been able to accomplish despite all the difficulties caused by two years of pandemic so far.

Allow me a word about another great team of Germans and Canadians: the one at the German Embassy in Ottawa, lead by Ambassador Sabine Sparwasser, with whom we have worked closely and fruitfully.

Looking ahead, we see that Canada's presence in Europe, as well as our cooperation with the United States and other democracies, needs to be further strengthened, especially given the terrible shock of the unjustified war of President Putin against Ukraine.

We must strongly support Ukraine, welcome refugees, feed the most vulnerable people in the world, find sources of energy that are safe and affordable, but also clean and in line with our ambitious climate plans, invest in key technologies for a digital future, contain inflation and continue the fight against COVID-19 and all other health security risks.

And in addition, promote democracy and universal rights, while preserving the multilateralism that allows us to coexist with other political regimes.

To all these objectives, Canada responds: present – present in Germany, present in Europe, shoulder to shoulder in the world.

Ladies and gentlemen, I now invite you to raise a glass and join me for a toast. Long live Germany, long live Europe, long live Canada!

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