Confidence-building measure

Confidence-building measure

Rudolf Seiters © Peter Steffen

Standing in the "second row" is an unloved exercise not only for politicians of stature. Exactly there Rudolf Seiters was gladly located by observers. He has towered over many – politically and as a person.

"Which compatriot are you?"The question posed by Rudolf Seiters, President of the German Red Cross, does not resonate with the kind of Germanophobia that is currently so popular on the far right of the political spectrum. Instead, something cozy from the Bonn Republic peeks around the corner. When Helmut Kohl from the Palatinate was in charge of government affairs. And the question about his compatriots was aimed at his location in this or that corner of the republic – including his preference for wine or beer, Saumagen or Rollbraten. At times, this also had something conservative and provincial about it. But in times of globalization is sorely missed by some.

Politicians and mediators

This Friday, Rudolf Seiters celebrates his 80th birthday. Birthday. He comes from Osnabruck and now lives in Papenburg. Landsmannschaftlich considered both areas, whose inhabitants are not necessarily conspicuous by steam chattering. Rather by straightforwardness and reliability. In the case of Seiters, a member of the Bundestag for more than three decades and head of the Federal Chancellery from 1989 to 1991, then Federal Minister of the Interior, something else comes into play. The ability to mediate – and the desire to build trust.

Seiters' silhouette is familiar above all to those over 40 who consciously experienced the time of reunification. The CDU politician was there when it counted. From meetings with representatives of the SED Politburo in the summer of 1989, when people were leaving the GDR in droves for Czechoslovakia and Hungary, to the delicate negotiations with the United States, the Soviet Union, France and Great Britain, without whose agreement unity could never have become a reality.

"Today I'm glad that Facebook and Twitter didn't exist back then," Seiters told the Catholic News Agency (KNA) in an interview a year ago. "No statement was allowed to be made that could have provoked Moscow in any way, nor was it supposed to unsettle and frighten anyone in the West."

Talks on German unity

Seiters played his part in bringing the talks to a good end. Even if the "big stage" was played by others. Like on that goosebump evening of the 30th anniversary of his birth. September 1989 in the German embassy in Prague, which was hopelessly overcrowded with GDR refugees. It was Foreign Minister Hans Dietrich Genscher, and not Seiters, who announced from the balcony: "We have come to you to inform you that your departure is today…"The rest was lost in the cheering.

According to Seiters, the beginning of the end of the GDR became apparent in the same year, during Chancellor Kohl's state visit on the 19th. December in Dresden. "In my entire life, I have never seen a state guest not accompanied by the inviting government. But at the Frauenkirche all GDR representatives had disappeared."That night, he said, the decision was made to stop making "any agreements" with Hans Modrow's government and to bring about free elections as quickly as possible, which would then take place on 18. March 1990 took place.

Connection with Cardinal Hoffner

Seiters demonstrated poise and decisiveness not only in political moments of glory. In 1993, he resigned as federal interior minister after a GSG-9 operation in Bad Kleinen went off the rails, killing a police officer and an RAF terrorist. With his resignation, he had wanted to set a signal "that we do everything possible to clear up by a new minister," Seiters justified his step.

The Catholic wrote in his autobiography that he owes his political maxims in no small part to Cardinal Joseph Hoffner of Cologne. He had demanded strength of character and independence from politicians, but also a "readiness for cooperation, reconciliation and compromise. Seiters has shown how it can be done. On 1. December he will leave his post as president of the German Red Cross. Then he actually stands in the second row. His wish for the younger ones: Get involved politically! "Anyone can complain, but shaping is something completely different and, above all, very satisfying."

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