It was 30 years ago

The European Parliament and the challenges of German reunification

For the MEPs, the prospect of German reunification was a historic occasion to overcome the division of Europe once and for all. It was also a chance to consolidate political balances, promote détente, and encourage peace processes, stimulate cooperation among the peoples of Europe and strengthen democracy and pluralism throughout the continent. While the European Council tried for months to draw up a common position of the twelve countries on the ‘German issue’, the European Parliament reiterated on several occasions that German unification should be accompanied by a strengthening of the European Community and evolution towards a political union that would include all aspects relating to external and security policy. And it was to the MEPs that European Commission President Jacques Delors declared, in January 1990, that the GDR would have a place in the European Community if it so requested.

On 15 February 1990, the European Parliament set up a temporary committee to consider the impact of the German unification process on the European Community. British MEP Alan John Donnelly was appointed rapporteur, and moved quickly to set priorities and outline the way forward. In close consultation with the Allies, the two German states directly negotiated the political, economic and financial details of unification, the actual date of which was finally established as 3 October 1990. At the same time, the ‘German Unification’ temporary committee became the hub of Parliament’s activities in this area for nine months.

The twenty members of the temporary committee – which included three former foreign affairs ministers – focused first on the arrangements for German unification and their possible consequences for the functioning of the Community institutions. The ‘German Unification’ ad hoc committee particularly examined the need to revise the European treaties. It also considered the budgetary and financial implications for the European Community of incorporating the GDR into the FRG. Finally, the temporary committee agreed to pay special attention to the GDR’s commercial obligations and the repercussions of German unification for the military alliances. As part of its work, the temporary committee collected the opinions of Parliament’s standing committees to better assess the consequences of Germany’s state unity for the European Community’s fields of action and common policies.

In addition, without awaiting the outcome of the temporary committee’s proceedings, the MEPs adopted a new set of important resolutions in April, July and October 1990 on the Community’s response to German unification and its implications for the Community process. In these texts, the European Parliament considered that a unified Germany should help strengthen the Community politically and economically and boost the former GDR’s and the Community’s economic, social and environmental development, while also providing a useful link between the Community and Central and Eastern European countries.