How did Canada react to German reunification

Long ways of German unity

Rebecca Plassa

To person

Graduate political scientist, managing director of the Heinrich Böll Foundation Saxony-Anhalt in Halle (Saale). Before that, she was a research assistant at the SFB 580 Halle / Jena. Research project: Local voter communities in East and West Germany at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg.


International and domestic German contracts

While the USA welcomed reunification, there was skepticism elsewhere: the Soviet Union had to admit with it that the socialist system had failed. And Europe worried about a revitalized Germany.

The Unification Agreement will be on display in a showcase in Berlin on Tuesday (August 31, 2010) at the beginning of a festive event to mark the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Unification Agreement. (& copy picture-alliance / dpa)

The starting position: four-power responsibility for "Germany as a whole"

The unification of the two German states had to be coordinated with international and European circumstances due to the bipolar world order that the Cold War brought with it. From the point of view of non-German actors, including the former allies of the anti-Hitler coalition, i.e. the USA, the Soviet Union, Great Britain and France, German unification harbored both opportunities and risks. Regarding the seemingly possible overcoming of the Cold War, reunification presented a historic opportunity. The perspective of a Germany united under the auspices of the Western model of democracy was unreservedly supported by the USA. From the perspective of the Soviet Union, however, reunification also meant an admission that the socialist system had failed.

In Europe, the question was also skeptically whether a reunified and thus strong Germany might pose a threat to the stability and security of Europe (Kaiser 2001: 279). From the point of view of German politics, it was therefore important to dispel existing concerns and resistance on the part of the four powers, which were still responsible for "Germany as a whole" under international law. The two world powers, the USA and the Soviet Union, played a key role in the process of reunification of the two German states. Together they created a window of opportunity, which made peaceful German reunification possible at all. The United States supported the German cause of reunification consistently and with many diplomatic means (Szabo 2001: 163f.). However, the USA demanded that united Germany remain in the NATO military alliance and that Germany recognize the existing borders to the east as central conditions for unification.

The Soviet Union also did not speak out against reunification in principle in November 1989, but saw this only in the more distant future. However, General Secretary Gorbachev made it clear internally to the GDR leadership that Moscow would not interfere in the internal affairs of the GDR; military intervention - as in Hungary in 1956 or in Prague in 1968 - was therefore ruled out (cf. Wolffsohn 1992: 146). When the economic and political collapse of the GDR became apparent in the first weeks of 1990, this accelerated the approval of the Soviet Union for reunification. In the person of Michael Gorbachev, who at the same time united the will to reform and the power to act in foreign policy, lies an essential key for the peaceful overcoming of the 40-year division (Kaiser 2001: 289).

In Europe, both France under Francois Mitterand and Great Britain under Margaret Thatcher were skeptical of reunification out of concerns about a revitalized Germany in central Europe. Prime Minister Thatcher in particular first tried to block them.

The internal German dynamic, which worked towards overcoming the division, could no longer be stopped at the beginning of 1990. So the Allied powers decided to create at least stable international framework conditions for the unification process, whereby the concrete steps of the reunification were left to the two German states.
Moscow, September 12, 1990: GDR Prime Minister Lothar de Maizière (left) signs the "Treaty on the Final Regulations with regard to Germany". Next to him is the German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher. (& copy picture-alliance / dpa)

The outer framework of reunification: the "two plus four" treaty

In February 1990 the four allied powers decided in Ottawa (Canada) to "regulate the foreign aspects of German unity, including questions of the security of the neighboring states with the two German states (two-plus-four talks)." (Wolfssohn, 1992: 146). The so-called "two plus four" treaty regulated the return of full sovereignty rights to both German states and was the result of negotiations between the four allied powers and the two German states. [1] The successful course of the treaty negotiations and the ratification of the two-plus-four treaty on September 12, 1990 in Moscow were an essential prerequisite for German reunification, since only this "treaty on the final regulations with regard to Germany" created the external framework for the subsequent domestic German contract negotiations.

Step by step towards reunification: domestic German contracts

After the opening of the border and the massive wave of emigration of GDR citizens that followed, there was initially political perplexity in the Federal Republic due to the rapid developments. How should one respond to the political upheaval and optimism in the GDR? In mid-November 1989, FDP Foreign Minister Genscher warned against too loud demands for reunification, because the status quo of the two German states could not be changed without the consent of the major victorious powers. Even within the SPD, they weren't sure whether they wanted two states or unity. On November 28, 1989, however, Chancellor Helmut Kohl (CDU) dared to make a surprising move with his "10-point program". In this program, he put the topic of reunification - without having agreed this with his coalition partner or the Western allies beforehand - on the political agenda, although it remained open when this was to be achieved (cf. Jesse 1992: 125).

Domestically, the mood in the Federal Republic was therefore heated up in the winter of 1989. While Helmut Kohl pushed for a monetary and economic union to be implemented quickly, the SPD chancellor candidate Oskar Lafontaine spoke out against a hasty monetary union and reunification with the GDR. However, Chancellor Kohl, who vigorously pushed ahead with rapid reunification in the spring of 1990 - and often without prior consultation with experts - had correctly assessed the political situation. For within the GDR there was a change of mood that set the course not for the renewal of the GDR system, but for "reunification". There were two fundamental alternatives how the unity of Germany could be achieved: on the one hand, the accession of the GDR to the FRG, favored by the CDU and FDP, according to Art. 23 of the Basic Law, and on the other hand, the establishment of the unity of Germany via a new constitution according to Art. 146 of the Basic Law Basic Law, an option that the SPD initially advocated.

In the GDR, the disastrous and steadily deteriorating economic situation, combined with openly shown distrust of the political leadership, led to a profound legitimation crisis (cf. Jarausch 1995: 148ff., 164). The first free election to the Volkskammer in March 1990 was therefore given the "character of a decision-making election" (Eith 1999: 624), in which the GDR citizens were able to vote on the political orientation of the GDR [2] along the political lines of the West German party system. The CDU-affiliated electoral alliance "Alliance for Germany", which advocated rapid German reunification, a currency union and a market-based economic system, clearly won the Volkskammer election with over 48 percent of the vote. (SPD: 21.9 percent, PDS: 16 percent, German Social Union (DSU): 6.3 percent, Federation of Free Democracies DFP-LDP-FDP The Liberals: 5.2 percent, Alliance 90 / The Greens: 2.9 Percent [3]). This election result created the legitimation for the subsequent reunification process and also marked a decision in favor of rapid reunification, which was to be implemented via the accession of the GDR to the FRG according to Art. 23 GG (cf. Jesse 1992: 129). Against the background of the accompanying "two-plus-four negotiations", the bilateral negotiation of the modalities of the German-German unification could be started quickly.

With the first State Treaty, a set of rules was negotiated between representatives of the Federal Government and the GDR government, which should help to stabilize the desolate economic situation in the GDR. The State Treaty on Economic, Monetary and Social Union contained - nomen est omen - requirements for the introduction of the social market economy as the basis for further economic and social development in a united Germany. It was also determined that the D-Mark should be the sole legal tender within the new monetary union. The exchange rate for all recurring payments (wages, rents, pensions, etc.) was 1: 1, otherwise the ratio was 2: 1, i.e. one D-Mark was received for two GDR marks. However, private savings could also be exchanged at a ratio of 1: 1 up to certain limits that were determined based on age. Furthermore, regulations for harmonizing the social security systems were agreed. This state treaty, which came into force on July 1, 1990, represents an important and irrevocable milestone for the unity of Germany, since economic unity was to be followed by state unity. This contract was supplemented by a law on the privatization and reorganization of nationally owned property. This attempt to rehabilitate the ailing GDR economy through privatization should be handled by the Treuhandanstalt (Grosser 1999: 810ff., 814).

Another central treaty of German unity, the "Treaty for the preparation and implementation of the first all-German election to the German Bundestag", created the legal basis for the political approval of reunification by the electorate. The treaty was prepared by the "German Unity" committees of the Bundestag and Volkskammer. In addition to a uniform electoral law, uniform electoral bodies and a uniform electoral area were established. December 2, 1990 was set as the date for the elections. After the treaty was passed on August 3, 1990, there were party-political quarrels, above all about the threshold clause and the possibility of list connections (Walter 1999: 780ff.). On the question of the threshold clause, the Federal Constitutional Court decided to apply it separately in the two states, despite the uniform electoral area, in order to preserve equal opportunities for the political parties in the first all-German federal elections (BverfG 82, 322). [4]

The completion of the reunification - The Unification Treaty

The ongoing high emigration of GDR citizens to West Germany as well as the progressive economic destabilization and the accelerated dissolution of the structures of the political system of the GDR made it necessary to draw up another state treaty after the treaty on economic, monetary and social union, the unification of Germany regulated. A central decision in the course of the negotiations on German unity is the transfer of Federal German law to the territory of the GDR. This uniform area of ​​law was established through the accession of the GDR to the Federal Republic under Article 23 of the Basic Law, which the People's Chamber decided on August 23, 1990 and which took effect on October 3, realized. The "Treaty between the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic on the establishment of the unity of Germany" (Unification Treaty) was signed on August 31, 1990 by Günther Krause (Parliamentary State Secretary to the Prime Minister of the GDR, CDU) and Federal Minister of the Interior Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) ratified on September 20, 1990 by the German Bundestag in Bonn and by the freely elected GDR People's Chamber. The treaty contained detailed regulations for the harmonization of the law and the economic, political and social conditions in the unified Germany. This gave the "triple transfer" (Gerhard Lehmbruch), namely federal German institutions, legal norms and persons (those who provided administrative assistance) to East Germany, a state treaty basis. Historically, both the "contract on the final regulation with regard to Germany" ("two-plus-four" contract) and the unification treaty have a far-reaching meaning, which results from the complementary relationship between both contracts: first the contractually fixed overcoming the outer division created the prerequisite for the signals for the inner unity to be set to green.

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