The rainy inaugural celebration at the Embassy on Pariser Platz before Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate coincided with the US Independence Day and included speeches from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former US President George H. W. Bush, and US Ambassador William R. Timken.
Former President Bush, who was in office when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, huddled under an umbrella with Chancellor Merkel before telling the crowd that the event fit “one of the last pieces of a historic puzzle together.”
“It’s a great and noble dream realized,” Bush said, recalling his time in office and calling Germany’s reunification one of the most important events of the 20th Century.
Chancellor Merkel congratulated America on its 232nd anniversary of independence.
“The return of the US Embassy to this place is a special and moving event for our country,” Merkel said, adding that American ideals of freedom and independence had carried Germany through many hard times.
Merkel, who was raised in communist East Germany, also thanked the pilots of the Berlin Airlift at the event for their role in saving West Berliners from starvation during a Soviet blockade in 1948.
Both politicians said they hope to strengthen the US-German partnership in the future.
“We stand for things that we can only fight together,” Merkel said, adding that the two nations needed to remain united to combat global issues like terrorism and climate change.
Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, whose term in office was marked by tensions with Washington over the Iraq war, refused an invitation to attend the event, Ambassador Timken told Berlin daily Berliner Zeitung on Friday.
Guests fed burgers and Bud
The party on the prominent city square was closed off to accommodate 4,500 invited guests, who were treated to Budweiser beer and snacks from American fast good giants Burger King and McDonald’s. A larger public festival near the Brandenburg Gate will be open to the public on Saturday.
The original US Embassy was heavily damaged in WWII, and was later razed by East Germany to make room for the Berlin wall. US diplomats have been working at two locations split on opposite sides of the city for years. The $130-million building was designed by California firm Moore Ruble Yudell and took four years to complete. It had to overcome budget woes, controversy over city security zoning and objections to its architectural style.
German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung has derided the stark, imposing building with bullet-proof windows, calling it “Fort Knox at the Brandenburg Gate.” But many Germans in attendance said they didn’t mind the new structure.
“These days it’s more about security than beauty,” said German guest Michael Clarke, adding that the Embassy’s style blended in many of the other buildings in the famous square.
Diplomats move into the building over the weekend, and the Embassy officially opens on Tuesday.