Year XXXI, 1989, Number 1, Page 35
German Reunification and European Unity. Twelve Theses
How should central Europe be politically structured? How should the Germans’ life be organised in the centre of Europe?
Europe and Germany are in a state of indissoluble dialectical interaction: the European question is always necessarily a German question — and vice versa. A glance at history provides us with countless examples, of which I might mention the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation, the political consequences of the split in the Church, which originated in Germany, the Thirty Years’ War, the dualism between Prussia and Austria, the foundation of the Reich, the two World Wars and their aftermath, whose effect can be felt even today.
Nowadays, however, the debate has taken a different turn; this interaction is no longer, or only to an insufficient extent, acknowledged. Some — the Deutschlandpolitiker — confine their discussion to the German question, generally in the sense of a reunification of a German nation-state, without taking any account of the European Community or indeed without even acknowledging the prospect of the European Union. Others — the Europapolitiker — view the European Community and the European Union as if the German question did not exist. Thus it is essential at this point to outline the actual condition in which European integration, which is of course West European, finds itself today, and to sketch the plans for its future development.
The most remarkable result of the integration process to date is the creation through the European Community of a peaceful community in Western Europe, which has contributed substantially to the advance of peace throughout the whole of Europe. The deliberately created interdependence among the member states has made armed conflict unthinkable.
Customs duties between member states of the European Community have been completely abolished since 1968, a fact unknown to a surprising number of citizens. Since 1984 we have, moreover, had a free-trade agreement between the EC and EFTA, which means that almost the whole of Western Europe has become a duty-free zone.
Our national economies have shown a healthy and dynamic development since the establishment of the Community. Internal trade has expanded much more than world trade, and the EC is now an important partner in international economic relations.
Co-operation in the framework of the European Monetary System is coming on well. The authorisation to the private use of the ECU by the German Federal Bank in the month of June of this year is a further step in the direction of economic and monetary union.
The beginnings of a common European foreign policy in the framework of the EPC (European Political Co-operation) have made the European Community a respected negotiating partner with great political weight throughout the world. The same is true for our co-operation with developing countries, which is recognized as a model, and for the united stand we have made in the UN.
The free movement of labour has largely become a reality, and freedom of domicile is well on the way to being so.
Through its social and regional policies, the European Community has made a considerable contribution to overcoming structural weaknesses.
In 1986 the Community, after long and difficult negotiations, produced comprehensive reforms of its legal foundations, which now lie before us in the form of the Single European Act: it came into force on the 1st July 1987. In this the member states agreed to incorporate research, technology and environmental policy into the Community treaties; they accorded the European Parliament more of a say, although still within a limited area; and they committed themselves (and herein lies the crux of the reform package) to finally bring about a completely free and unlimited internal European market by 1992. The declared aim of the completion of the internal market is to enable unrestricted traffic in goods, services, capital and labour. In order to achieve this, members of the Community have declared themselves prepared to leave all essential questions concerning the realization of the internal market to majority decisions in the Council of Ministers. Finally, the Single Act contains a small but historically significant step towards a common European foreign policy: for the first time the members of the Community have bound themselves by treaty to consult their partners before deciding on their own foreign policy position.
In this the Single Act is following a definite strategy of integration which should be seen as very much in the spirit of Jean Monnet. He it was who “invented” that method of step-by-step functional development which has so far characterized the European Community. He showed in the Schuman Plan how a common problem which absolutely had to be solved by the governments concerned — in this case helping Germany recover its strength as an industrial power — is to be identified and how common institutions and instruments have to be created to solve the problem.
The Single Act offers a further example of this method: the problem consists in the international competitiveness of European industry. The completion of an unrestricted internal market should enable the solution of the problem, and majority decisions in the Council of Ministers should contribute to this.
The Draft Treaty for the foundation of the European Union, which was passed by the European Parliament with a large majority in February 1984 and whose leading exponent was Altiero Spinelli, is the result of a different strategy. Spinelli and those who shared his cause diagnosed a general crisis of the nation-state, too all-embracing to be solvable by Monnet’s method of piecemeal measures. The strategy underlying the Draft Treaty consists of a comprehensive reform of Community institutions: majority decisions in the Council of Ministers and powers of codecision by the European Parliament in all areas of legislation which concern the completion of the internal market and economic and monetary Union.
Security and foreign policy should, according to the Draft Treaty, continue to be the preserve of co-operation between governments since these represent the last citadels of national sovereignty. Apart, however, from this crucial exception, the Draft Treaty can be said to contain the structures and powers of a federation. Taking all this together then, the theory may be defensibly advanced that — at least by the declared will of the European Parliament and the forces that support it — we are on the way to a state-like formation in Western Europe.
The above should show that we cannot talk about the German question without taking into account these facts and perspectives, themselves the creation of the integration of the Federal Republic of Germany with the West. On the other hand, it is naturally our duty as Germans, when considering the further development of European integration, to take into account the consequences for the German question. It is high time the connection between the two complexes were established, not only in fine-sounding speeches, but also in political practice; in other words, a coherent strategy has to be developed which binds the two elements together.
Once again, we can usefully turn to history, where we find a rich selection of experience for such strategies of action:
1) the road of hegemony, taken by both Napoleon and Hitler, each time ending in bloody failure;
2) division and dualism as the results of political failure; again, just a few examples: the split between the East and West Frankish Empire, the schism in the Church and its political consequences (such as the Peace of Augsburg, the Thirty Years’ War, and the Treaty of Westphalia), the dualism between Prussia and Austria which led to the kleindeutschen solution;
3) the equilibrium solution, the balance orchestrated by the Concert of Europe, as in the Congress of Vienna and Bismarck’s policy. This system was chronically unstable, and was itself the cause of further military conflicts.
4) the road peculiar to Germany, arising as a result of a German sense of mission, developing in turn out of the German sense of cultural superiority around the beginning of the 18th century. This was associated with a spiritual and cultural detachment from its West European neighbours. This German missionary zeal released its chaotic explosive effect on the Weimar Republic before the latter could firmly establish itself.
To sum up, the history of Europe emerges, as Professor Werner Weidenfeld put it, as a fundamental dialectical conflict between two basic tendencies:
— between the confrontation of nations, interests and attitudes, and their interrelationship, which is to say,
— between differentiation and unification.
Only against this historical background does it become really clear just how revolutionary a break has been achieved with traditional strategies of action since 1945 by the free part of Germany, when the founding fathers of the Federal Republic of Germany tied the German question to political freedom and the democratic constitutional state. Parallel to this, the founding fathers of European unification bound up European co-operation with freedom and with equality of all states on the basic principle of the rule of law. In this way they broke with the disastrous Treaty of Versailles, which had only served to cast down still more the defeated and thus sow the seeds of further aggression.
It is with good reason therefore that we now consider the Marshall Plan, in this 40th anniversary of that colossal aid action, to have been not only a generous act of charity on the part of the USA, but a policy motivated by a political strategy, which has proved highly successful. The Marshall Plan furthered the equality of the countries of Europe, victors and defeated alike, through the rebuilding of economic relations, and thus created the conditions for West European unification.
Just as in 1947 the Americans, despite postwar exhaustion, withstood the temptation to take the path of isolationism, so France overcame itself (always the greatest kind of victory) when a few years later, in 1950, it adopted the Jean Monnet-inspired Schuman Plan for the European Coal and Steel Community. This apparently highly technical plan for common regulation of coal and steel was in reality a tremendous blueprint for peace, which would make future wars in Europe impossible by accepting the one-time “traditional enemy” with equal rights and duties into the family of nations.
The harmony I have described as existing since 1945 between the German and the European view of the world, with their emphasis on freedom and the rule of law as organizing political principles, is reflected in the preamble to the Constitution, in which it is stated that the German people is “inspired by the will to preserve their unity as a nation and as a state and to serve the cause of peace as an equal member of a united Europe.”
It is from the starting point of the Federal Republic of Germany’s inextricable links with the West that I would draw up the following twelve theses:
The link with the West represents an important part of the Federal Republic of Germany’s raison d’état. European integration is not an alternative to “national” politics but rather its essential complement in the present day. Membership of the EC is and will remain an indispensable condition for the achievement of the central goals of German policy:
— to preserve freedom, peace and security, and to facilitate good neighbourly relations among the peoples and countries of Europe;
— to guarantee economic prosperity, social justice and forward-looking environmental planning;
— to strengthen and further develop the political order of the Federal Republic as a free democracy and a social constitutional state;
— to obtain recognition of the right to self-determination for the German people and other peoples of Europe to whom it is denied;
— to overcome the partition of Germany and Europe.
Decent human co-existence necessarily demands that people have different aims in view, of which “unity” is only one. Freedom, peace and justice are clearly of higher importance. These aims must go before all considerations of state and social organisation, and are best achieved by means of a federal structure and the fulfilment of federal principles. Among these may be cited in particular the democratic participation of all citizens, the sharing out of responsibilities and powers among local, regional, national and European levels, and a mandatory charter of human and civil rights; subordinate to these are the shaping of economic, social and political relations, but also political, social and economic solidarity, and finally self-determination and self-realisation as well as pluralism in cultural, political, social and economic life.
These basic objectives are our starting point for the planning of German and European policy.
The nation-state is not a historically imperative form of organisation — on the contrary, it is a relatively young phenomenon, historically speaking, since nation-states have existed for only a few centuries as a possible functional and organisational form of human society. Germany only existed as a unified nation-state for about 75 years, with two German “part states” having developed since the Second World War. Europe was only ever unified under tyrants and occupying forces. What really matters is not primarily state or political unity, but rather the community that arises from the application of common basic values. Only this can open the way to the peaceful co-existence of nations and the development of national, regional and cultural groups.
Federalism was seen as the essential means to create the conditions for peaceful European policy planning in the resistance groups in Europe who fought during the Second World War against nationalism and in particular against National Socialism in Germany as the arch-enemy of freedom, peace and justice.
The Hertensteiner Programme, which was formed in 1946 in Switzerland, in the first postwar conference of federalist groups, sets out the foundations of a federative union of all Europe — as a necessary and substantial part of a worldwide federation of peoples. But however much the peoples of Europe wished to shape a common future, the political development of the world stood against it — an All-Europe union was unattainable. A new global power system developed, determined by the confrontation between East and West. In view of the fact that two world wars had originated in Europe, and above all in Germany, it was practically inevitable for the boundary line to be drawn right across Europe, dividing Germany in two. While the confrontation between East and West dominated world politics, the goal of a united Europe was not forgotten. In the Baden-Baden declaration of 1966, the Europa-Union Deutschland had this to say on the question: “Beyond the completion of West European integration, the goal of European unification politics remains an all-European federation which encompasses all the countries up to the western border of Russia and which maintains partnership relations with the United States of America and the Soviet Union.” The politics of European integration were seen from the outset by their initiators as a way to create the preconditions for overcoming the division of Europe. We know that Leipzig and Dresden, Prague and Warsaw are just as much part of Europe as the West European metropoles.
Convinced of the necessity for the unification of Europe, the advocates of this idea began where it was possible: in Western Europe. An important pre-requisite for the success of the plan to bring together the West European democracies in a community was the reconciliation and close co-operation between France and Germany. Thus the European Coal and Steel Community, the germ cell of the European Community, was born. The foundation for the integration policy it ushered in was the readiness of member states to bind their fates together irrevocably. In this way they committed themselves to forming a community of values, whose hallmark would be the acknowledgement of freedom and the democratic constitutional state, equality of rights and the rule of law in the European context. Whereas only six countries were able to commit themselves to such common action at first, the number has in the meantime grown to twelve. The EC is open to every country wishing to enter, so long as it has a democratic regime.
There was never a realistic chance of an isolated German reunification. Even under the flag of neutrality a reunified Germany — in view of the past and considering Germany’s economic potential — would have been unacceptable both to our immediate neighbours and to the superpowers. For this reason the solution found for Austria cannot hold water as an argument. In addition, in view of the totalitarian development begun in the eastern part of Germany, any attempt at reunification without the possibility of backing from the western democracies was seen as endangering the not yet stabilised democratic structure of the western half of Germany. It was therefore right to give temporal priority to European unification before an uncertain policy of reunification.
To tie the continuation of European integration to progress in the German question is simply to hand the Soviet Union a lever to prevent the unification of West European countries by refusing to allow German reunification. The integration of the Federal Republic of Germany with the West on the other hand has contributed positively to keeping the German question open, by causing the western neighbours to adopt the German point of view. At the same time, the Federal Republic of Germany has been able to rehabilitate itself by virtue of its position in Europe and plausibly to show itself to have renounced the nationalistic tradition.
The Europa-Union draws the consequences of the foregoing and calls for a federal European Union, imbued with the principles of freedom, self-determination, the rule of law and social justice.
The fathers of the Constitution also endorsed such a perspective when they called for the co-existence of all Germans in unity and freedom, while at the same time, however, they opened the way for the renunciation of national sovereignty rights in favour of the creation of a European community. It is in this context that we must see the German question, now and in the future. The sovereign nation-state, as developed in the 19th century, is at stake.
The German question is and must remain open, as ordained in the Federal Republic of Germany’s Constitution. This was also confirmed by the Federal Constitutional Court in its ruling on the Basic Treaty between the Federal Republic of Germany and the GDR: “The first consequence of the reunification rule is that no constitutional organ of the Federal Republic of Germany may renounce the restoration of a unified state as their political goal; all constitutional institutions are obliged to direct all their policies towards the achievement of this goal — which includes the requirement to keep the claim to reunification alive in one’s heart and outwardly to plead its cause with steadfastness — and to abstain from anything that may prevent reunification.” This order is perfectly compatible with a resolute policy of European unification, and is also in harmony with the Treaty of Germany, in which it is stated that “the Federal Republic of Germany and the Three Powers” remain, in the future as in the past, bound by the terms of the treaty to work together “in order to achieve by peaceful means their common goal, which is a reunified Germany governed by a free democratic Constitution similar to that of the Federal Republic of Germany, and fully integrated into the European Community.”
By questioning the absolute priority of a sovereign unified German nation-state with a view to a solution in a European context by the exercise of the right to self-determination, we are keeping open the German question as part of a far greater European question.
When a nation is divided into several states, there arise two possible solutions: either to reach a solution by a plebiscite through the exercise of the nation’s right to self-determination, or to take the road of unification between states, which may range from a partial agreement to a full federal treaty. The developmental process of the open German question demonstrates that so far both alternatives have been sought — in vain. As against the classic instrument of unification between states with the aim of achieving national unity — as practised in Germany and Italy in the last century — the principle of self-determination has acquired particular importance since the First World War, as set out in the UN Charter.
The right of self-determination is one of the basic requirements of European-federalist unification policy. By overcoming inherited and often artificial borders, it provides for the free co-existence of peoples in a European framework. This is equally valid for the realisation of the right to self-determination for the German people in the context of a European solution. There are various possibilities for this, including that of “two states in Germany”. This formula appeared for the first time in the then Chancellor Brandt’s Government statement in October 1969.
In the Constitutional Court’s decision regarding the Basic Treaty, it is stated that “it is thus quite wrong to say that any ‘Two-State-Model’ is incompatible with the constitutional order”. Elsewhere we find the following reference: “There are various legal categories of border: administrative borders, demarcation borders, the borders between spheres of interest, the border marking the area governed by the Constitution, the borders of the German Empire according to the position of 31st December 1937, state boundaries, and among these those that enclose a federal state, and those that, within that state, divide member states from each other (as with the states of the Federal Republic of Germany).” It is clear that, in the process of West European integration and all-European cooperation, the borders in Europe have changed in quality and will continue to do so. This is most obvious for the inner borders of the European Community, which have to a very great extent lost their divisive character. Under such changed circumstances “two states in Germany” under a European roof would be acceptable, were the Germans in the Federal Republic of Germany and in the GDR to opt for this in a vote for self-determination. This European roof cannot, however, be that of Mikhail Gorbachev’s much-vaunted “European house”. It is not enough to give an old house a coat of fresh paint and make a few cosmetic repairs. Europeans must build a new house of freedom, in which human rights and self-determination have some value; it must be built with federative bricks and mortar.
There is a historical example for the road outlined here: when the status of the French-occupied Saarland was being finally settled, the Federal Republic of Germany gave priority to the Saarlanders’ right to self-determination before state unity. The people of the Saar decided for the Federal Republic of Germany; however, they could have opted just as easily for the European status of the Saarland, which we could have endorsed whole-heartedly, since this would have made a clearly visible start to the devaluation of borders and would have demonstrated the interlacing possibility of European economies. Of course one cannot simply carry this “miniature reunification” over into future situations.
The application of the right to self-determination in the member states of the East Bloc is not to be expected in the short term. Nevertheless one must not on this account cling to an “all-or-nothing” position and persist in expecting miracles.
So our first priority should be to change the nature of the inner German border, which is particularly painful as it coincides with the line of junction between East and West, by a policy of pragmatic steps: to make it more permeable and more human, and finally to do away with it altogether. This is the goal of all policy connected to the Basic Treaty and pursued by each government of the Bundesrepublik.
Every encounter with people from beyond the Wall and the barbed wire is therefore as much to be encouraged as co-operation with COMECON countries in every area and on all levels. Every new contact, every further treaty, every additional commercial exchange helps to thicken and strengthen the web that binds us together, until we reach a point where attempts to tear this web apart would merely inflict damage on both sides. Over the last twenty years, a new web of links has been woven between East and West in general and between the two Germanies in particular. The more comprehensive the co-operation between East and West, the more effective it will be. Policy concerning the East Bloc and the relationships between the Bundesrepublik and the GDR is no longer carried out primarily in bilateral agreements; this level is increasingly replaced by multilateral talks — in the CSCE, the MBFR and in the talks between the EC and COMECON. The Federal Republic of Germany can only pursue such a policy however if it remains inextricably linked with the countries of Western Europe which are part of the EC. Thus all-European co-operation can offer no substitute for West European integration; West European integration is rather an indispensable condition for successful all-European co-operation.
What we have to guard against is overplaying our attempts at a German-German solution. This would immediately arouse distrust in East and West alike; faced with the alternative, our neighbours would prefer the status quo to a unilateral German-German breakaway. This would therefore shatter all hope not only of an all-European policy but also of reunification of Germany. This is true not least for the speculative plans for a "confederation" between the Federal Republic of Germany and the GDR.
We must also guard against the vision of an imaginary "Central Europe" between the blocs, which under German hegemony would be bound to reawaken old difficulties.
The assumption that any historical state of affairs may be re-established, is unhistorical. History — and not least that of West European integration — teaches us that the development of new forms of co-operation and integration does not always keep to the blue prints of documents and treaties. Just as with the EC a sui generis image has emerged which was unforeseeable 40 years ago, so we may expect a solution to the German question which interlinks elements of the historically developed states together with West European integration and all-European cooperation. I am convinced that this Continent, in which the ideas of freedom and justice were born, will in the 21st century no longer endure an order which shows scant respect for the right of nations to self-determination.
The speaker, as a member of the executive committee of the Europa-Union Deutschland, laid these theses open to discussion among the association. The Europa-Union had not yet reached a conclusion on them at the time of the address.