Year XXXI, 1989, Number 3, Page 246



Gerhard Eickhorn’s essay, “German Reunification and European Unity. Twelve Theses”, published on No. 1, 1989 of The Federalist, is a good basis for further clarifying the Federalists’ position on the question of the division of the two Germanies. The essay does not merely reaffirm that reuniting Germany can and must only be achieved within the framework of a European Federation and a system of peaceful Pan-European cooperation, but goes much further. It questions, in fact, the thesis that the only form in which reuniting Germany can be achieved, obviously within a European Federation, is the fusion of the FRG and the GDR into one state. And it maintains that the option of two German states under a common European roof must also be considered, showing a clear preference for this solution.
This statement must be underlined positively for two fundamental reasons. Firstly, with the fusion of the two German states within the European Federation a state of such economic and demographic size would be created that strong fears of a Germanic hegemony would arise in the other member-states, and this would introduce a factor of crisis and potential disgregation of the federal ties. Actually, the problem of the excessive dimensions of the German national state, which caused a crisis in European equilibrium and the two world wars, continues to be posed, although on different terms, in the context of the establishment of the European Federation and cannot be neglected in defining its inner articulation. Secondly, the fusion between the FRG and the GDR could not be justified on the basis of the free coexistence of all the Germans, that would actually be perfectly assured by a European Federation with many German states. On the contrary its only legitimacy would be the nationalistic principle of the coincidence between cultural nation and state. Once applied to the FRG and the GDR, this principle would foster fatally consistent claims for fusion with Austria (which belongs to the German cultural nation) and with the numerous German minorities living within other European states, and analogous claims on the part of other national minorities, with the predictable resulting conflicts and disgregation.
If this is clear, it seems to me on the other hand that the Federalists should take a further step forward with respect to the position expressed by Eickhorn, in other words they should not merely say that the thesis of many German states under a European roof is preferable to that of the fusion between the FRG and the GDR, but they should refuse on principle the second thesis. Moreover, as a consequence, they should maintain that Berlin freed from the wall will not be the capital of a reborn German national state, but rather a candidate, within the framework of eliminating the division between the two Europes, to being the capital of the European democratic common house. This type of solution to the problem of the division between the two Germanies — it must be underlined — does not at all exclude the possibility that Pangermanic organisms could arise to safeguard those characteristics and values which are peculiar to the German cultural nation. However, these organisms should not have a state-like character. And on the other hand one must not neglect the rights of the national minorities living within member-states of the European Federation to protect their cultural identity, but it must be emphasized that the situation can improve decisively in this regard if these rights, are juridically guaranteed by the federal constitution and concretely protected by the European federal authority.
To return to Eickhorn’s essay, the fact that he does not exclude on principle the option of a fusion between the FRG and the GDR is founded on the reference to a people’s right to self-determination. This is where the crucial point of the problem lies. I believe the concept of self-determination should be deeply discussed by the Federalists. Here I simply propose three synthetic considerations in this regard.
1. The Federalists cannot accept the concept still prevailing nowadays of the right to self-determination, according to which every people has the right to establish itself as a state with absolute sovereignty. This concept is clearly in contradiction with the Federalist doctrine, which considers it indispensable that in our times state sovereignty be limited to the advantage of a common democratic federal authority, which alone is able to organize peaceful coexistence among all populations. The creation of states with absolute sovereignty, intended as an instrument for achieving national independence, can be considered as positive in those historical situations where there did not yet exist any real possibility of starting peaceful unification on the federal and democratic bases of mankind, and where the elimination of international anarchy was not the priority problem. Today the elimination of international anarchy has become the inevitable condition for the very survival of mankind and, in any case, the process of overcoming absolute state sovereignty has already started and has reached its most advanced level so far in Western Europe. It is certainly extremely problematical to foresee the phases and concrete ways in which the unification of mankind will develop, but there is reason to believe that, leaving unification aside through war, because this would imply the destruction of mankind itself, the final road to unification can only be a world federation of regional federations.
Therefore, if our time is characterized by the centrality of the world unification problem, it seems very anti-historical to support the validity of the right to create sovereign states, in other words to perpetuate and exasperate international anarchy. What must be claimed instead is the right of all peoples to federalism, that is, to the establishment of ties with other peoples that preserve independence in purely internal matters, but subordinate all peoples to a common democratic law in reference to problems linked to their interdependence. To give some concrete examples, the Federalists should, in my opinion, support the right of the populations of the Baltic republics to a reform of a federal and democratic nature of the USSR, but not to the restoration of absolute sovereignty. And as for the Palestinians, they should support their right to a state of their own, but at the same time they should support the simultaneous inclusion of this state into a security and cooperation system with Israel and the other neighbouring countries, which is guaranteed by the UN and which, when conditions are ripe, can evolve towards a regional federal system.
2. Having made clear why the right to self-determination intended as a right to the creation of states with absolute sovereignty is unacceptable, it must be explained that one cannot even accept in general terms the right to self-determination intended as a right to define the boundaries between the member-states of a federation according to the criterion of coincidence between state and nation. Apart from the extreme difficulty or impossibility of defining boundaries which are acceptable to everybody in the areas where the population is mixed, for the reasons abovementioned the creation of states that are too powerful must be avoided. To better understand the matter, one must bear in mind the example of the Swiss Federation: if the German-speaking Cantons were to unite into one Canton, the federal tie would immediately suffer a crisis. The fact that the boundaries between the member-states of a federation do not necessarily have to be founded on the principle of cultural nationality does no however mean that in certain cases the inner boundaries of a federation cannot be re-defined. As has already happened in Switzerland in the case of the Jura, the same thing could happen — to give a concrete example — within a European Federation to which Austria too belonged, in the case of the Tyrol. In reality a re-unification between Northern Tyrol and Southern Tyrol within the Austrian state would re-establish a unity many centuries long, interrupted by the European civil war of this century and certainly would not create problems of equilibrium inside the European Federation.
3. Overcoming the division between the two Germanies has always been considered by the Federalists as an aspect of overcoming the division between the two Europes, in other words, practically, of the creation of a European democratic federation stretching as far as the Western borders of the USSR. In this case the right to self-determination means the right of the satellite countries to detach themselves from the Soviet bloc and to join the European Federation. Now, in my opinion this thesis should be re-considered. In actual fact it was wholly legitimate, although not very realistic, in a situation where the problem of getting world unification under way was not yet topical in its present terms, and in which no prospects for democratic development existed yet within the Soviet bloc. Instead, today current changes are emerging with respect to these two problems and it has become necessary to start seriously discussing the project of gradually establishing a European democratic common house which must involve Europe, the USSR and North America and be intended both as an aspect and a fundamental moment of the establishment of a democratic common house of an mankind, which of course will take much longer. If we see the problem of overcoming the division between the two Europes in this perspective, it does not seem to me that the right approach is the attempt to detach individual countries of Eastern Europe from the Soviet bloc, in other words to favour a weakening or even a unilateral dismantling of this bloc, which involves running the extremely serious risk of causing an interruption or an inversion in the liberalization process taking place in the Soviet bloc. A much more valid approach in my opinion would be for the European Community to propose (this is why it must acquire as soon as possible the structure of supra-national government that is indispensable to exert any real influence on world politics) a wide design based on the agreed bilateral end to the opposing blocs and their simultaneous replacement with an American-European-Soviet community for cooperation and security, open to any other state that wishes to join it.
The main contents of this design should be: at the security level, the progressive elimination of nuclear weapons, the creation of purely defensive armies, the withdrawal of US and USSR troops from Western and Eastern Europe, the creation, in the place of opposing military alliances, of common security structures; at the economic level, the reform and economic integration between the countries of the Soviet bloc accompanied by an ever deeper cooperation and, therefore, by a progressive integration between Western Europe, Eastern Europe, USSR and North America; at the political level, the democratization of the Soviet bloc countries and the progressive creation of common democratic institutions in the American-European-Soviet community.
Within this framework the problem of the possible adherence of the Eastern European countries to the Western-European Federation would no longer be in conflict with the problem of the balance between the two blocs. But completely new prospects might emerge. Among these the two to be considered are the option (over the short term) of a particular tie between the countries of Eastern Europe aiming to achieve a more balanced situation within the Soviet bloc, and (over the longer term) the option of a Pan-European federation including the USSR, on condition not only that it converts to democracy, but also that it be articulated into many states, so as to avoid obvious dangers of hegemony.
To return to the German question, I maintain therefore, on the basis of these considerations, that it is a mistake on the part of the Federalists to appeal to the right of self-determination to avoid excluding the option of a fusion of the two Germanies into one state, even through a European federation. Having said this, there remains the problem of whether it is politically useful for the Federalists to publicly support the thesis of many German states under a European roof. Actually, one could reason in the following way. While it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for any West-German government to officially renounce the thesis of state reunification between the two Germanies, the situation would be completely different once the European Union had been achieved. In this case foreign policy and security policy would come, albeit gradually, within the jurisdiction of the Union, and the latter, on the basis of its own raison d’état could not avoid supporting the thesis of many German states under a European roof and within the framework of a democratic European common house. This is because in this way it would not only eliminate the dangers of disgregation connected with the creation of an excessively strong state inside the European Union, but it would also favour the democratization process in the Soviet bloc, as it would eliminate the roots of the problem of re-defining the borders in Eastern Europe, a problem whose very nature is bound to foster nationalist, authoritarian and military tendencies. As a result, it would be wiser on the Federalists’ part not to take up positions that might weaken German support for the European Union objective, and to insist on the fact that, by achieving the latter, the most valid solution to the German question would impose itself automatically.
What remains wholly valid along this line of reasoning is the thesis that the creation of the European Union is the irreplaceable premise of every decisive positive development in the relations between the two Europes, while there are at least two reasons for overcoming the fear of assuming an unequivocal position in favour of German unity to be achieved without a fusion between the FRG and the GDR.
In the first place, this thesis is now strongly represented in German political debate (it is supported, for example, by Die Zeit, which has always played the role of pacesetter with any themes concerning the Ostpolitik, and the new programme of the SPD, drawn up at Irsee, considers open the question of the form in which German unity should be achieved within a context of European security) and the Federalists must take up a clear position concerning it, both so as not to be outsiders in the discussion of problems which interest public opinion, and to introduce those clarifying elements that only the federalist point of view can produce. In particular, the Federalists can point out that the thesis of many German states under a European roof and in the framework of a democratic European common house, far from representing a renunciation to the Germans’ unity, is the only road which effectively makes it possible to achieve this objective. Substantial and not purely formal unity means in fact that all Germans have the same right to freedom, democracy and social justice, that they can safeguard their cultural identity, that there is no obstacle to their relationships and that they can live peacefully with their neighbours. On the other hand, the idea of a fusion between the two Germanies in one state simply makes the perspective of the German unity more uncertain. Therefore, if the Federalists decide to support clearly and forcefully the thesis of many German states under a European roof, they may encounter some difficulties, but they will gain new and important support in the fight for the European Union above all among the younger generations, which perceive more and more the inadequacy of the present official position of the Bonn government on the German question.
In the second place, because the changes taking place in Eastern Europe are opening up very real prospects for overcoming the division between the two Germanies, there is a concrete possibility that the Bonn government’s official position on the German question will change. Overcoming the thesis of the fusion between the two German states, in other words, of the absorption of the GDR into the FRG, would decisively reinforce the ability of the Bonn government to favour the reforming tendencies within the Soviet bloc, because it would no longer be possible to use the danger of German revanchism to justify keeping up militaristic and authoritarian structures. The Federalists, playing an avantgarde role, can therefore influence the progress towards the European Union, which finds an important obstacle also in the concern on the part of Bonn’s Western-European partners that an excessively strong Germany might be created. Apart from the influence over the Bonn government, if the Federalists took up a clear position in favour of the thesis of many German states under a European roof and in the framework of a European democratic common house, this would reinforce the federalist organizations’ possibilities of extending their range of action into Eastern Europe.
Sergio Pistone