Germany hails 30th anniversary since signing of unification treaty

By Rodrigo Zuleta

Berlin, Aug 31 (efe-epa).- Germany on Monday is commemorating the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Unification Treaty, the pact that put reunification of West and East Germany on a fast track nine months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, which – for decades – had been the iconic symbol of the Cold War.

The political and economic system of the German Democratic Republic – otherwise known as East Germany – had been toppled on the streets with mass demonstrations and protesters shouting “We are the people,” leading to the destruction of the Wall, and later to the Soviet-dominated east’s first free elections, which ended the hardline communist regime there.

Then, with the election triumph of Lothar de Maiziere – who would be the last prime minister of the GDR – the process of dismantling the old state moved from the street into the government offices.

The question had stopped being whether reunification would occur, with the issue at that point being the way in which it would be accomplished in the economic, social and legal spheres.

The Unification Treaty was negotiated in just eight weeks and had been preceded by another agreement on monetary, political and social unification. What was still lacking, however, was agreement on the basis for political and legal unification of the western and eastern zones.

The head of the negotiating team for the Federal Republic of Germany – the Western portion – was then-Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, while the GDR’s team was headed by that regime’s secretary of state, Guenther Krausse.

According to the constitution of West Germany, two possibilities were available for defining the basis of reunification.

The first was set forth in Article 23, and it permitted the newly reunified Germany to take over the constitutional order of West Germany. The second, based on Article 146, set forth the creation of a new common Constitution for the two portions of greater Germany.

The first solution was the one selected and this accelerated the process of reunification.

Critics of that option said that a constitutional debate prior to the adoption of a new constitution would have created – especially in the western portion of the country – greater awareness of what reunification implied, while Germans in the eastern part would have felt greater participation in the process.

Defenders of the fast track noted that the window of opportunity for reunification could have closed quickly and they alluded to the coup attempt in the Soviet Union against Mikhail Gorbachev.

In any case, in the east the manner whereby reunification was being achieved was being established by western authorities. In a survey published on Monday by the MDR television network, 66 percent of respondents said that the interests of the East Germans were not sufficiently considered in the treaty.

Some 17 percent of those surveyed believe that the East Germans’ sentiments were completely ignored and just 9 percent said that their feelings were adequately considered.

That discontent is occasionally expressed at the polls, as has been seen by the rise in the eastern region of the ultrarightist Alternative for Germany and, also although in another sense, with the relatively high popularity at the polls of The Left and the now-defunct Party of Democratic Socialism.

The most radical criticism of the process talk about an “Anschluss” (annexation). The accelerated privatization of East Germany’s state-run companies led many eastern German companies to experience unemployment for the first time in their existence.

In many regards, since then living conditions have been moving closer together in the two zones and figures show that eastern Germans are significantly better off economically now than they were under the old communist regime, although many disagree with that apparent fact for various reasons.

The treaty created five new federated states – Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia – and it merged East and West Berlin into one metropolis, establishing it as the capital of the reunified nation.

In the preamble to the Constitution, which earlier had set reunification merely as a goal, it was newly declared that Germans in the 16 federated states had achieved unity.

The treaty was approved by the parliaments of both West and East Germany, and on Oct. 3, 1990, the formal reunification of the nation was finalized.

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