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25 years since German reunification: The role of the European Parliament

Others Article - Future of Europe/European integration / Institutions02-10-2015 - 12:48
 
Illustration photo of the German reunification ©AP Images/European Parliament   Germany reunified following the collapgse of the Berlin wall ©AP Images/European Parliament

Germany celebrates on 3 October 25 years of reunification. After the Berlin wall fell in 1989, East and West Germany reuniting became an obvious next step. Parliament set up a special committee to look at the possible impact of this. "German reunification was, in a way, an informal form of enlargement of the European Union," said Elmar Brok, who was a committee member and is still an MEP today. He and other MEPs share with us their memories of this period.


"East Germany [is] a special case," said Jacques Delors, president of the European Commission, in plenary in January 1990. "There is a place for East Germany in the Community should it so wish."


After that speech, the European Communities began to prepare for German reunification and a month later Parliament decided to set up a special committee on reunification


Special committee


The parliamentary committee dealt with how reunification and accession to the then European Communities could be achieved. It included the question how people from the GDR should be represented in Parliament until then. The special committee was chaired by  Spanish EPP member Gerardo Fernández Albor. Its 20 members included three former foreign ministers as well as former EP President Simone Veil. The positions of vice-presidents and rapporteur were given to non-Germans in order to avoid any conflicts of interest.


UK S&D member Alan John Donnelly prepared a report on these questions. His report also stated that the GDR could send 18 democratically elected observers to the European Parliament until the next European elections in 1994. The report was adopted in the plenary of the European Parliament with a larger majority than the unification treaty was in the German Parliament.


MEPs' recollections

German EPP member Elmar Brok is the only member of the special committee on reunification still serving in Parliament. "I think the most important part is: It became natural. In the European Parliament nobody makes the distinction between West and East Germany anymore," he said.


Brok, who is now the chair of the foreign affairs committee, added: "It was very good that [the reunification] was debated with the representatives of this part of Germany."


Three current MEPs served as GDR observers at the time. German S&D member Sylvia-Yvonne Kaufmann said: "The fall of the wall changed my life in all respects. I would never have imagined that some months later I would start to work in the European Parliament. It was a fantastic turn of fate."


German S&D member Constanze Krehl added: "The European Parliament was one of the first institutions which clearly stated that they support this process of reunification in a peaceful way. It was the first step towards overcoming the division of the whole continent."


German EPP member Dieter-Lebrecht Koch, who was also a GDR observer at the time, said: "The reunification of Germany could not have happened without the approval of the European Parliament."

REF. : 20151001STO95135
 
 
   
Paving the way
 

Parliament's special committee on the German reunification

 
Timeline
 

9 November 1989: Fall of the Berlin Wall

 
 

23 November 1989: Parliament becomes the first European institution to speak of a possible reunification of Germany

 
 

17 January 1990: Commission President Jacques Delors acknowledges in plenary for the first time that GDR should join the European Communities

 
 

15 February 1990: Parliament sets up a temporary committee to examine "the impact of the process of unification on the European Community"

 
 

6 September 1990: European Institutions agree that Parliament has to give its view on all legislative measures proposed

 
 

23 November 1990: Parliament adopts the Donnelly report

 
 

February/March 1991: Observers from the GDR arrive in the Parliament