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A divided Germany, 25 years after the Berlin Wall
The German reunification German: The end of the unification process is officially referred to as German unity German: Tag der deutschen Einheit. The East German government started to falter in May , when the removal of Hungary's border fence with Austria opened a hole in the Iron Curtain. The Potsdam Agreement had specified that a full peace treaty concluding World War II, including the exact delimitation of Germany's postwar boundaries, required to be "accepted by the Government of Germany when a government adequate for the purpose is established.
The key question was whether a Germany that remained bounded to the east by the Oder-Neisse Line could act as a "united Germany" in signing the peace treaty without qualification. Under the "Two Plus Four Treaty" both the Federal Republic and the GDR committed themselves and their unified continuation to the principle that their joint pre boundaries constituted the entire territory that could be claimed by a Government of Germany, and hence that there were no further lands outside those boundaries that were parts of Germany as a whole.
The united Germany is not a successor state , but an enlarged continuation of the Federal Republic. As such, the enlarged Federal Republic of Germany retained the West German seats in international organizations including the European Community later the European Union and NATO , while relinquishing membership in the Warsaw Pact and other international organizations to which only East Germany belonged. It also maintains the United Nations membership of the old West Germany.
For political and diplomatic reasons, West German politicians carefully avoided the term "reunification" during the run-up to what Germans frequently refer to as die Wende. The official  and most common term in German is "Deutsche Einheit" "German unity" ; this is the term that Hans-Dietrich Genscher used in front of international journalists to correct them when they asked him about "reunification" in After , the term "die Wende" became more common.
The term generally refers to the events mostly in Eastern Europe that led up to the actual reunification; in its usual context, this term loosely translates to "the turning point", without any further meaning.
When referring to the events surrounding reunification, however, it carries the cultural connotation of the time and the events in the GDR that brought about this "turnaround" in German history. In , the Third Reich ended in defeat and Germany was divided into two separate areas, with the east controlled as part of the communist Soviet Bloc and the west aligned to capitalist Europe which formed into the European Community , including a division in military alliance that formed into the Warsaw Pact and NATO , respectively.
The capital city of Berlin was divided into four occupied sectors of control, under the Soviet Union, the United States, the United Kingdom and France. Germans lived under such imposed divisions throughout the ensuing Cold War. Into the s, the Soviet Union experienced a period of economic and political stagnation , and they correspondingly decreased intervention in Eastern Bloc politics.
The wall had stood as an icon for the political and economic division between East and West, a division that Churchill had referred to as the " Iron Curtain ". In early , under a new era of Soviet policies of glasnost openness , perestroika economic restructuring and taken to even more progressive levels by Gorbachev, the Solidarity movement took hold in Poland.
Further inspired by other images of brave defiance , a wave of revolutions swept throughout the Eastern Bloc that year. The turning point in Germany, called " Die Wende ", was marked by the " Peaceful Revolution " leading to the removal of the Berlin Wall with East and West Germany subsequently entering into negotiations toward eliminating the division that had been imposed upon Germans more than four decades earlier.
On 28 November —two weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall —West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl announced a point program calling for the two Germanys to expand their cooperation with the view toward eventual reunification. Initially, no timetable was proposed. However, events rapidly came to a head in early Second, East Germany's economy and infrastructure underwent a swift and near-total collapse.
While East Germany was long reckoned as having the most robust economy in the Soviet bloc, the removal of Communist hegemony revealed the ramshackle foundations of that system.
The East German mark had been almost worthless outside East Germany for some time before the events of —90, and the collapse of the East German economy further magnified the problem.
Discussions immediately began for an emergency merger of the German economies. On 18 May , the two German states signed a treaty agreeing on monetary, economic and social union. The Deutsche Mark had a very high reputation among the East Germans and was considered stable. This created a suitable framework for a political union by diminishing the huge gap between the two existing political, social, and economic systems. In the wake of that resolution of accession, the "German reunification treaty",    commonly known in German as " Einigungsvertrag " Unification Treaty or " Wiedervereinigungsvertrag " Reunification Treaty , that had been negotiated between the two German states since 2 July , was signed by representatives of the two Governments on 31 August The amendments to the Federal Republic's Basic Law that were foreseen in the Unification Treaty or necessary for its implementation were adopted by the Federal Statute of 23 September , that enacted the incorporation of the Treaty as part of the Law of the Federal Republic of Germany.
The said Federal Statute, containing the whole text of the Treaty and its Protocols as an annex, was published in the Bundesgesetzblatt the official journal for the publication of the laws of the Federal Republic on 28 September Under article 45 of the Treaty,  it entered into force according to international law on 29 September , upon the exchange of notices regarding the completion of the respective internal constitutional requirements for the adoption of the treaty in both East Germany and West Germany.
With that last step, and in accordance with article 1 of the Treaty, and in conformity with East Germany's Declaration of Accession presented to the Federal Republic, Germany was officially reunited at These states were the five original states of East Germany, but were abolished in in favour of a centralised system. As part of the 18 May treaty, the five East German states were reconstituted on 23 August.
At the same time, East and West Berlin reunited into one city, which became a city-state along the lines of the existing city-states of Bremen and Hamburg. Berlin was still formally under Allied occupation that would only be terminated later, as a result of the provisions of the Two Plus Four Treaty , but the city's administrative merger and inclusion in the Federal Republic of Germany, effective on 3 October , had been greenlighted by the Allies, and were formally approved in a meeting of the Allied Control Council on 2 October In an emotional ceremony, at the stroke of midnight on 3 October , the black-red-gold flag of West Germany —now the flag of a reunited Germany—was raised above the Brandenburg Gate marking the moment of German reunification.
The process chosen was one of two options implemented in the West German constitution Basic Law of to facilitate eventual reunification. The Basic Law stated that it was only intended for temporary use until a permanent constitution could be adopted by the German people as a whole. The initial eleven joining states of constituted the Trizone. West Berlin had been proposed as the 12th state, but was legally inhibited by Allied objections since Berlin as a whole was legally a quadripartite occupied area.
Despite this, West Berlin's political affiliation was with West Germany, and in many fields it functioned de facto as if it were a component state of West Germany. The other option was Article , which provided a mechanism for a permanent constitution for a reunified Germany. This route would have entailed a formal union between two German states that then would have had to, amongst other things, create a new constitution for the newly established country.
However, by the spring of it was apparent that drafting a new constitution would require protracted negotiations that would open up numerous issues in West Germany. Even without this to consider, by the start of East Germany was in a state of utter collapse. In contrast, reunification under Article 23 could be implemented in as little as six months.
Ultimately, when the treaty on monetary, economic and social union was signed, it was decided to use the quicker process of Article By this process, East Germany voted to dissolve itself and to join West Germany as five new states, and the area in which the Basic Law was in force simply extended to include them. The five new states held their first elections on 14 October Nevertheless, although the Volkskammer's declaration of accession to the Federal Republic had initiated the process of reunification, the act of reunification itself with its many specific terms, conditions and qualifications, some of which required amendments to the Basic Law itself was achieved constitutionally by the subsequent Unification Treaty of 31 August ; that is through a binding agreement between the former GDR and the Federal Republic now recognising each another as separate sovereign states in international law.
Hence, although the GDR declared its accession to the Federal Republic under Article 23 of the Basic Law, this did not imply its acceptance of the Basic Law as it then stood, but rather, of the Basic Law as subsequently amended in line with the Unification Treaty. The reunification was not a merger that created a third state out of the two. Rather, West Germany effectively absorbed East Germany.
Under this model, the Federal Republic of Germany, now enlarged to include the five states of the former German Democratic Republic plus the reunified Berlin, continued legally to exist under the same legal personality that was founded in May While the Basic Law was modified, rather than replaced by a constitution as such, it still permits the adoption of a formal constitution by the German people at some time in the future. It also continued to be a party to all the treaties the old West Germany signed prior to the moment of reunification.
The Basic Law and statutory laws that were in force in the Federal Republic, as amended in accordance with the Unification Treaty, continued automatically in force, but now applied to the expanded territory. Also, the same President, Chancellor Prime Minister and Government of the Federal Republic remained in office, but their jurisdiction now included the newly acquired territory of the former East Germany.
To facilitate this process and to reassure other countries, fundamental changes were made to the "Basic Law" constitution. The Preamble and Article were amended, and Article 23 was replaced, but the deleted former Article 23 was applied as the constitutional model to be used for the reunification. The changes effectively formalised the Oder—Neisse line as Germany's permanent eastern border.
To commemorate the day that marks the official unification of the former East and West Germany in , 3 October has since then been the official German national holiday, the Day of German Unity Tag der deutschen Einheit. It replaced the previous national holiday held in West Germany on 17 June commemorating the Uprising of in East Germany and the national holiday on 7 October in the GDR, that commemorated the foundation of the East German state.
For decades, West Germany's allies stated their support for reunification. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir , who speculated that a country that "decided to kill millions of Jewish people" in the Holocaust "will try to do it again", was one of the few world leaders to publicly oppose it. As reunification became a realistic possibility, however, significant NATO and European opposition emerged in private. A poll of four countries in January found that a majority of surveyed Americans and French supported reunification, while British and Poles were more divided.
Those surveyed stated several concerns, including Germany again attempting to expand its territory, a revival of Nazism, and the German economy becoming too powerful. Thatcher also clarified she wanted the Soviet leader to do what he could to stop it, telling Gorbachev "We do not want a united Germany". Thatcher, who carried in her handbag a map of Germany's borders to show others the "German problem", feared that its " national character ", size and central location in Europe would cause the nation to be a "destabilizing rather than a stabilizing force in Europe".
And now they're back! Although she gradually softened her opposition, as late as March Thatcher summoned historians and diplomats to a seminar at Chequers  to ask "How dangerous are the Germans? The pace of events surprised the French, whose Foreign Ministry had concluded in October that reunification "does not appear realistic at this moment".
The two leaders saw no way to prevent reunification, however, as "None of us was going to declare war on Germany". Mitterrand still wanted Thatcher to publicly oppose unification, however, to obtain more concessions from Germany.
Ireland 's Taoiseach , Charles Haughey supported German Reunification and he took advantage of Ireland's presidency of the European Economic Community by calling for an extraordinary European summit in Dublin in April to calm fears held by fellow members of the EEC. Italy's Giulio Andreotti warned against a revival of " pan-Germanism " and joked "I love Germany so much that I prefer to see two of them", and the Netherlands' Ruud Lubbers questioned the German right to self-determination.
They shared Britain and France's concerns over a return to German militarism and the economic power of a reunified nation. The consensus opinion was that reunification, if it must occur, should not occur until at least and preferably much later. From the onset, the Soviet Union sought to use reunification as a way to push Germany out of NATO into neutrality, removing nuclear weapons from its territory. However, West Germany misinterpreted a 21 November diplomatic message on the topic to mean that the Soviet leadership already anticipated reunification only two weeks after the Wall's collapse.
This belief, and the worry that his rival Genscher might act first, encouraged Kohl on 28 November to announce a detailed "Ten Point Program for Overcoming the Division of Germany and Europe".
While his speech was very popular within West Germany, it caused concern among other European governments, with whom he had not discussed the plan.
The Americans did not share the Europeans' and Russians' historical fears over German expansionism; Condoleezza Rice later recalled, "Any issues that existed in , it seemed perfectly reasonable to lay them to rest".
In December , the administration of President George H. Horst Teltschik, Kohl's foreign policy advisor, later recalled that Germany would have paid " billion deutschmarks" if the Soviets demanded it. The USSR did not make such great demands, however, with Gorbachev stating in February that "The Germans must decide for themselves what path they choose to follow". During a NATO—Warsaw Pact conference in Ottawa, Canada , Genscher persuaded the four powers to treat the two Germanys as equals instead of defeated junior partners, and for the six nations to negotiate alone.
Although the Dutch, Italians, Spanish, and other NATO powers opposed such a structure, which meant that the alliance's boundaries would change without their participation, the six nations began negotiations in March In exchange, Kohl agreed to reduce the sizes of the militaries of both West and East Germany, renounce weapons of mass destruction , and accept the postwar Oder—Neisse line as Germany's eastern border. In addition, Germany agreed to pay about 55 billion deutschmarks to the Soviet Union in gifts and loans, the equivalent of eight days of the West German GDP.
After the Americans intervened,  both the UK and France ratified the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany in September , thus finalizing the reunification for purposes of international law.