It was 30 years ago

The European Parliament and peoples’ right to self-determination

On 16 November 1989, the European Parliament’s enlarged Bureau met in an extraordinary session in Brussels. It expressed its delight following the recent events leading to the opening of the Berlin Wall, while recalling the Assembly’s commitment to peoples’ self-determination and democracy.

A week later, the MEPs adopted a resolution calling for ‘the right to self-determination’ for GDR citizens, ‘including the possibility of forming part of a unified Germany within a united Europe.’ On 9 February 1990, President Barón Crespo travelled to East Berlin, where he met several leaders of the democratic movements. He also took the opportunity to remind everyone involved that, in the eyes of the European Parliament, Germany’s future should be addressed within the context of establishing a European Union and a structure to ensure peace and freedom throughout Europe. A week later, Parliament adopted a new resolution which recognised the right of all Germans to live in the same country. Its MEPs subsequently hailed the victory, in March 1990, of the political parties in favour of German unification in the first democratic elections to be held in the GDR.

On 16 May 1990, Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Lothar de Maizière, the first democratically elected leader of the GDR, chose the European Parliament as the forum for them to lay out their vision for the future of their country and Europe.

For Lothar de Maizière, this was a historically important event: ‘At this time when I can address you as Prime Minister of the first democratically elected government of the GDR, my heart is filled with emotion,’ he said. He went on: ‘We owe our meeting today to the East Germans who began to take control of their own destiny in autumn 1989. Through peaceful means, they have secured their rights as human beings to democracy, freedom, self-determination and respect for every person’s dignity.’ Standing before the MEPs, Chancellor Kohl was at pains to provide reassurance about the possible repercussions of the unification of Germany for the functioning of the European Community’s institutions: ‘The Federal Government has always sought to integrate the German unification process into a stable European framework. I have set myself the task of taking the European and German unification processes forward by aligning them as much as possible, and, as far as is practicable, within the framework of a common timetable.’