History of East Germany - Reunification


See also: German reunification and die Wende

Although there were some small attempts to create a non-socialist East Germany, these were soon overwhelmed by calls for reunification with West Germany. There were two main legal routes for this. The Basic Law for the Federal Republic had been conceived as a temporary document because at the time (1949) it could not extend to eastern Germany due to the Soviet occupation zone there. The Basic Law therefore provided a means (Article 146) for a new constitution to be written for a united and democratic Germany. However it also contained Article 23, under which states could accede to the Federal Republic, in the process accepting its existing laws and institutions. This had been used in 1957 for the accession of the state of Saarland. Whilst Article 146 had been expressly designed for the purpose of German reunification, it was apparent in 1990 that employing it would require a vastly longer and more complex process of negotiation - and one which would open up many political issues in West Germany, where constitutional reform (particularly to respond to changing economic circumstances) was a longstanding concern. An accession under Article 23, on the other hand, could be (and ultimately was) implemented in just 6 months, and sidestepped completely the West German political conflicts involved in writing a new constitution. Under the pressure of an increasing financial crisis (driven partly by mass emigration to West Germany in early 1990, and partly by the Federal Republic's refusal to grant the loans that would have been needed to underpin a longer transition period), the Article 23 route rapidly became the frontrunner. The cost of this, however, was that East German democracy died almost as soon as it was born, with a set of laws and institutions imposed from outside replacing a set of laws and institutions imposed from above. Any debate, for example, about the value of the various social institutions (such as the childcare, education and healthcare systems, which had implemented policy ideas discussed in West Germany for decades, and still current today) was simply ruled out by this legal route.

Following the first free East German elections on 18 March 1990, the CDU-dominated Alliance for Germany formed a "grand coalition" with the GDR's Social Democrats, and elected Lothar de Maizière as Prime Minister on 12 April. Following negotiations between the two German states, a Treaty on Monetary, Economic and Social Union was signed on 18 May, and came into effect on 1 July, among things replacing the East German mark with the Deutsche Mark. The treaty already declared the intention for East Germany to accede to the Federal Republic via Article 23 of the latter's Basic Law, and indeed laid much of the ground for this by providing for the swift and wholesale implementation of Federal laws and institutions in East Germany.

In mid July most state property - covering a large majority of the East German economy - was transferred to the Treuhand, which was given the responsibility of overseeing the transformation of East German state-owned business into market-oriented, privatised companies. On 22 July a law was passed recreating the five federal states existing before the creation of the German Democratic Republic, to take effect on 14 October; and on 31 August the Unification Treaty set an accession date of 3 October (modifying the State Creation Law to come into effect on that date). The Unification Treaty declared that (with few exceptions) at accession the laws of East Germany would be replaced overnight by those of West Germany.

In September, after some negotiations which involved the United States, the Soviet Union, France and the United Kingdom, conditions for German reunification were agreed on, with the Allies of World War II renouncing their former rights in Germany, and agreeing to remove all occupying troops by 1994. With the 12 September signing of the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany, Germany became fully sovereign once more from 15 March 1991. On October 3, 1990, the new federal states, created on that day, acceded to the Federal Republic, while East and West Berlin reunited to form the third city-state of the Federal Republic. Thus the East German population was the first from the Eastern Bloc to join the European Union as a part of the reunified Federal Republic of Germany (see German reunification).

Read more about this topic:  History Of East Germany