A symbol of the division of Europe, the Berlin Wall was built in August 1961 by the GDR to stem the relentless flow of East Berliners heading for the West. The ‘Wall of Shame’, as the West dubbed it at the time, was meant to hermetically segregate the two parts of the city. Designed for a military purpose, with watchtowers, spotlights and barbed wire running along the top, the wall provided glaring evidence of the inability of the West and of the Soviet regime to resolve the Berlin issue and agree on a peace treaty to end the Second World War. The European Parliamentary Assembly was quick to react.
On 10 and 11 October 1961, its Political Affairs Committee met, symbolically, in West Berlin, since, while they did not have the means to intervene directly to stop the wall being built, its members wanted to display the European Community’s solidarity with the people of Berlin. President Hans Furler made a declaration on the situation in Berlin, proclaiming it the ‘symbol of free Europe.’ A week later, the Assembly devoted a public debate in the plenary to the Berlin issue. In that debate, all the speakers were unanimous in protesting at the construction of the wall and denouncing the East German regime’s attacks on freedom.
Walter Hallstein, who attended these debates as President of the Commission of the European Economic Community, expressed support for the European Parliamentary Assembly’s efforts with his condemnation of the events taking place in East Berlin.