Year XXVI, 1984, Number 1 - Page 45

 

 

GERMAN REUNIFICATION AND EUROPEAN UNIFICATION
 
 
The neutralist option has recently resurfaced with considerable force in the unending debate in West Germany on Germany's reunification, which has alarmed Bonn’s European and Western partners, and, as usual, France in particular. The belief that, if the two Germanies left their respective blocks, a decisive contribution to lasting détente would be achieved and that this would open up the possibility of overcoming Germany’s division into two states, was supported by leading and highly-qualified exponents of the German Peace Movement. An example of this was the “Krefeld appeal” an open letter to Brezhnev when he visited Bonn in November 1981, signed by Havemann, the well-known East German dissident, by many West German intellectuals, including BoIl, and by several SPD deputies, trade unionists and ecologists.[1] A book, Die deutsche Einheit kommt bestimmt, which received some attention from the foreign press, has been a significant factor in the “New German Patriotism”, the name given to this line of thinking. It was published in April 1982 in Bergisch Gladbach by Lubbe and contains essays by its editor Wolfgang Venhor and other contributors from all parts of the German political spectrum, ranging from Harald Rüddenklau, a Christian Democrat, to Peter Brandt, the son of the current SPD President, very much to the left of this party.
Despite the divergent positions, it is the common belief of all the book’s contributors, well-expressed by the editor, that European unification is not the key to German unity but rather that German unity is the key to European unity. This belief is based on the conviction that Adenauer’s decision to opt for the Atlantic Alliance and West European Unity, which the SPD came to adopt at the end of the fifties and beginning of the sixties, significantly stiffened the system of opposing blocks in Europe and ran completely counter to such goals as reunification, detente and peace. A radical rethinking of West German foreign policy can no longer be delayed because the current phase in the blocks system is causing a sharp increase in the arms race which, unless checked, will inevitably lead to a nuclear conflict with Europe, and Germany in particular, as the main battlefield. In other words, if Germany is to be a real source of détente bringing about a reversal in the current critical international position and encouraging the process of Germany’s reunification, then a transitory phase, a confederation between the two Germanies, must become the overriding priority, which (according to Venhor, who does not explain how) would be compatible with an unchanged status within NATO and the EC on the one hand and the Warsaw Pact and Comecon on the other, and would thus not create any very complex problem immediately. This would be a launching pad towards overcoming the blocks system, gradually to be replaced by a United Europe, as a collaboration of sovereign states, including a fully reunified Germany.
How reassuring it was, given such deviant positions as this, that a book by Eberhard Schulz (deputy director of the Forschungsinstitut der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik), Die deutsche Nation in Europa, appeared in the same month and the same year under the auspices of the Europa-Union Verlag in Bonn. This book has proved exceptionally valuable in restoring clarity to the German reunification issue (although needless to say the foreign press has had nothing to say about it so far, since irrational positions at least at the outset get more space than rational positions). Not only does it show clearly the inconsistencies in the “New German Patriotism” outlook; it also shows up the limitations of the official policy on the reunification issue put forward by the major political forces in Bonn, and hence the Government too, limitations which are partly responsible for the periodic resurgence of irrational positions, highly damaging to this crucial issue in German politics.
In his criticism of the neutralist position, the author stresses in particular that the Soviet Union would never give up control over such a key state as East Germany, unless it was forced to do so as a result of a radical shift in the balance of power, since it wishes to maintain its imperialist position in Europe and, thus, throughout the world. Schulz further points out that the Soviet Union would not welcome even a Communist unified Germany, because such a political entity, in view of its power, would create even more problems than arose from the break with China. If on occasion the Soviet Union seems to float some prospect of German reunification in return for a more or less neutralist option, this should merely be interpreted as an expedient, a tactic designed to weaken Bonn’s ties with NATO and the EC. Quite apart from considerations of the total lack of reality in the neutralist option, Schulz’s decisive criticism concerns the outdated nationalistic thinking underlying “New German Patriotism”, which prevents its exponents from appreciating that the national State has for a long time been a historically superseded political structure and that the priority in German politics should be the completion of European unification and not the reconstitution of the German national state destroyed by the outcome of the Second World War.
Whilst criticising the neutralist option, Schulz defends the basic validity of the West German Government’s foreign policy since the War. However, as mentioned above, he brings to light the limitations he finds in the West German Government’s current official policy on German reunification and this is the most original and interesting part of the book. The central tenet of this policy, officially supported by all the major political forces in Bonn, despite their differences over the Ostpolitik, is that the German issue will remain unresolved, until the German people as a whole is given the right to bring about its own reunification into one state by exercising self-determination and by stipulating a peace treaty defining the boundaries of the reconstituted German State in such a way as to be acceptable to all parties. West German constitutional bodies consider this view to be upheld by the 1949 Constitution, the introductory articles of which lay down that the new State’s international objectives include maintaining the national and State unity of the German people, as well as participation in a United Europe. The Ostpolitik of the Brandt-Scheel Government is therefore considered by Bonn's government as a provisional measure. This is because the Federal Republic, but not the future State emerging from the German people's implementation of their right to self-determination, is bound by the 1970 treaty with Poland, containing recognition of the Oder-Neisse line between Poland and the German Democratic Republic, and by the 1972 treaty between the two Germanies relating to their mutual recognition. Significantly in 1973 the Constitutional Court upheld the validity of the 1972 treaty when it was contested by the Bavarian Government but ruled that the Constitution requires the Federal Republic’s constitutional bodies to pursue reunification of the German people into a single State.
Schulz maintains that although this view was historically comprehensible when the Federal Republic was founded, in the light of the uncertain developments in Europe and the world as a whole, nevertheless it is totally outdated in the current situation and merely has adverse consequences.
Its most serious limitations concern the relationships between the Western European partners. For as long as Bonn continues to assert officially that its objective is German reunification a very large obstacle to progress in European integration will remain, since the nationalistic tendencies affecting Bonn’s EC partners, France and Great Britain primarily, will always be able to use to their advantage worries arising from the hegemony that a united Germany would objectively have in the EC given the size of its economy and population. While weakening Bonn’s credibility over its pro-European policy outside West Germany, inside West Germany it opens up the path for those who urge Bonn to weaken its European and Western ties in favour of the goal of reunification.
The very fact of considering the German issue still unresolved also has very adverse consequences as regards relationships with Eastern Europe. The prospect, however theoretical, that one day the Oder-Neisse line may be questioned, merely encourages more pro-Soviet and anti-liberalising trends in Poland, easily whipped up by the ghost of German revanchism, while continued official policy statements favouring reunification affect relationships with the German Democratic Republic even more, since this objectively means that at the first opportunity this State will be absorbed and Berlin will be made the capital of the new German State. However unrealistic this policy may be, its continuation has the effect of both strengthening East Berlin’s more pro-Soviet trends and the effect of providing a good excuse for improving neither human contacts between the two German populations nor the ever precarious position of West Berlin. The more positive aspects of the Ostpolitik thus come to be checked.
Finally the West German Government's official policy on German reunification has far from positive effects on public opinion within Germany. The very fact that a politically unachievable goal has been proclaimed by Bonn to be its basic foreign policy objective for decades (a policy achievable only if unexpected changes naturally representing a great threat to peace were to arise) has merely created despondency among West German politicians and weakened the population’s democratic awareness. All of which opens up the way, particularly among the younger generations, for irrational political trends even as regards the question of a divided Germany.
Schulz argues that these considerations ought to lead to a thorough revision of the current West German policy on the German issue and he suggests somewhat implicitly that some aspects of the Constitution might need to be altered should they prove to be an unsurmountable problem in this respect. The idea is that West Germany’s major political forces, and hence the government, should state that Bonn’s primary foreign policy objective is European unification, a much more coherent position. And as regards the German issue, the official policy should be to pursue the sacrosanct task of eliminating the barriers which exist today preventing contact between the people of East and West Germany and not the reconstitution of a single German State, the accent being placed on the possibility for East Germans to exercise democratic self-determination i.e. to give themselves a democratic regime with the possibility of participating in the EC, while maintaining the Democratic Republic's statehood.[2] Various key German politicians including Strauss, Scheel and Brandt have suggested they favour this position, although none of them has yet had the courage to draw up a precise proposal designed formally to revise the official Government line, partly because of the Constitutional Court’s ruling. Apart from removing one of the greatest obstacles to the furthering of European integration, this position would open up the way for supporters of detente and liberalising trends in East Germany and Eastern Europe in general and would contribute in the short term to greater relaxation of the frontiers between the blocks and in the long term to the prospect of decisive changes within the Soviet block, in relation to the furthering of European integration.
We cannot fail to agree with Schulz’s analysis and his conclusions, not least for the simple reason that his ideas tally with those which have long been included in the European federalists’ political platform. We may merely recall here the resolution of the Italian MFE on the German question in 1963, the 1966 declaration of the Europa-Union Deutschland approved in Baden-Baden and the ten theses approved in 1980 by the Hauptausschuss of the Europa-Union, one of which contains the following formula: «Two States in Germany - under a European roof ».[3] Leaving aside legitimate satisfaction over the fact that an eminent scholar has upheld the validity of one of the federalists’ most significant policies after a fairly complete and detailed analysis, we must recognize the great political topicality of Schulz’s discussion given the crucial decisions facing the European Community at the current time. We are clearly referring to the question of the revision of the Community's structure which has been put on the agenda by the European Parliament and which will face the crucial test, ratification by the Member States, in the period following the European elections in June 1984. Incidentally, we should point out that precisely because of the lack of up-to-date information on the European Parliament’s action, Schulz’s discussion of the concrete possibilities of furthering the process of European integration constitutes the only weak point in the book, since his discussion goes no further than recording the deep crisis that the Community is currently undergoing, without sufficiently stressing the progressive trends brought about by the European Parliament’s direct election. It should furthermore be pointed out that, as regards the battle over the restructuring of the Community’s institutions, a clear move by Bonn to distance itself from its current official line on the German question would contribute enormously to a positive outcome in this respect in France, the country which will be decisive for the whole undertaking and where, it should be remembered, the battle for the EDC (the European Defence Community) was lost at a time when the ghost of the danger of German hegemony was the main weapon of those who opposed the construction of Europe. Insofar as Schulz’s proposals will stimulate a wide and productive debate in Germany on the limitations of the traditional reunification policy, a debate in which German federalists could play a decisive political and cultural role, his proposals will contribute substantially to bringing about positive developments as regards this policy.
 
Sergio Pistone

 
 


[1] As regards the presence (considered marginal by the present author) of the issue of Germany’s reunification in the German Peace Movement and the reactions to it outside Germany (considered disproportionate here) see Wilfried von Bredow, «Zusammensetzung und Ziele der Friedensbewegung in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland», in Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, an insert in the review Das Parlament, June 19th, 1982.
[2] A similar thesis was implicit in Karl Kaiser’s book German Foreign Policy in Transition. Bonn between East and West, Oxford University Press, London, 1982, but, never until now, at least to our knowledge, had it been formulated so explicitly and so well constructed (apart from the positions of the European federalist organisations which will be discussed below) as in Schulz's book. His argument against the goal of reconstituting a single German state is diametrically opposed to Rosario Romeo's position in his book Italia mille anni, Florence, Le Monnier, 1981, where abandonment of reunification, whether open or covert, is a grave political and moral error both for the majority of West Germans and for Germany’s allies. A quite lucid assessment of this aspect of Romeo's book was made in Dino Cofrancesco’s article, «Riflessioni suI nazionalismo. La Germania e l’Europa», in Storia contemporanea, 1982, n. 3.
[3] The first two documents are published in S. Pistone, La Germania e l’unità europea, Naples, Guida, 1978. The third (mentioned by Schulz) is published in the September 1980 issue of Europäische Zeitung, the official journal of the Europa-Union Deutschland.

 

 

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