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Today, March 25, the European Union celebrates the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome. The EU's 50th birthday gives us Europeans the opportunity to look back on this unprecedented success story. Together we can be proud of what the people of Europe have achieved in the past half-century.
And that is why this is also a day of confidence for Europe.
Peace, prosperity and stability in Europe are among the central achievements of European unification - and the people have reaped the benefits.
Europe's reunification is of paramount importance. The accession of new member states played a decisive role in firmly anchoring democracy and the rule of law in Europe. And let's not forget, the division of our continent could not have been overcome if the people in Central and Eastern Europe had not so yearned for freedom. They deserve our thanks.
But part of the success of European unification is also that certain characteristics of cooperation have developed which are unique the world over.
The EU is based on democracy and the rule of law.
Cooperation is defined by the same rights and duties for all member states, as well as the fundamental principles of transparency and subsidiarity. These principles of our cooperation are certainly not to be taken for granted and serve as a model for cooperation in other parts of the world.
Our shared values - human dignity, freedom and responsibility, solidarity, diversity as well as tolerance and mutual respect - form Europe's foundation.
You see, the EU is not simply a common economic area; it is, rather, a community of shared values, underpinned by a shared European way of life. Those shared values are essential for Europe to be able to act as a political entity.
WE ALL know that despite the success of European policies, people's confidence in the EU has dwindled in recent years. That is why one of the central goals of Germany's presidency of the EU was, from the very outset, to ensure that acceptance of Europe increases once more. To do so we have to look to the future and prove that the European Union is able to tackle the external and internal challenges of the 21st century.
No individual member state can go it alone and maintain prosperity and security; certainly it cannot bring the necessary weight to bear to actively shape globalization.
Meeting earlier this month, the European Council proved that the EU is able to develop successful policies, especially in spheres of prime importance for the people. Climate protection and energy policy are among the central questions for our future. Climate change is one of the major challenges we face today and can only tackle together.
What is more, the people want the common foreign and security policy to be further consolidated. European foreign policy must always be a policy of promoting peace and justice and protecting our natural sources of life.
Turning to justice and home affairs, we want to link our joint fight against terrorism and crime with securing human and civil rights. Furthermore, we need shared solutions on how to deal with illegal immigration.
There is one message to the people which to me seems particularly important: The EU is essential in today's world if we want to preserve our European way of life and social model.
To do so, we need a dynamic economy which combines competitiveness with social and ecological responsibility. We have to make the EU's social face more visible for the people.
So let's focus on what brings us together on this day. A signal of unity and common purpose should go out from the EU's 50th anniversary - with the clear message that we want, together, to tackle and solve the tasks that lie ahead. We have every reason to be confident.
Together, we Europeans are able to take our future in our own hands and mold it as we see fit. For this we need the people in Europe.
Europe - a joint success!
The writer is Foreign Minister of Germany.