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German reunification (Deutsche Wiedervereinigung) took place on October 3, 1990, when the areas of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR - in English often called "East Germany") were incorporated into The Federal Republic of Germany ("West Germany") (FRG). After the GDR's first free elections on 18 March 1990, negotiations between the GDR and FRG culminated in a Unification Treaty, whilst negotiations between the GDR and FRG and the four occupying powers produced the so-called "Two Plus Four Treaty" granting full independence to a reunified German state. The reunified Germany remained a member of the European Community (later European Union) and NATO. The term "reunification" is used in contrast with the initial unification of Germany in 1871.
After the end of World War II in Europe, Germany had been divided into four occupation zones. The old capital of Berlin, as the seat of the Allied Control Council, was itself subdivided into four occupation zones. Although the intent was for the occupying powers to govern Germany together in the borders from 1937, when the Cold War began the French, British and American zones formed the Federal Republic of Germany (including West Berlin) while the Soviet zone formed the German Democratic Republic (including East Berlin) in 1949 and annexed the eastern parts of the country to the Peoples Republic of Poland and the Soviet Union. The FRG and the GDR made competing claims to be the legitimate legal successors of the 1945 German state.
A first proposal for German reunification was advanced by Stalin in 1952 under terms similar to those adopted for Austria. It called for the creation of a neutral Germany with an eastern border on the Oder-Neisse line and all allied troops removed within the year. The West German government under Konrad Adenauer favored closer integration with western Europe and asked that the reunification be negotiated with the provision that there be internationally monitored elections throughout Germany. This condition was rejected by the Soviets. Also, Stalin had offered reunification of whole of Germany (in the borders of 1937) under condition that Germany joined the Warsaw Pact (Eastern Bloc).
The democratic government of the Federal Republic of Germany and its NATO allies at first did not recognize the German Democratic Republic or the Peoples Republic of Poland, per the Hallstein Doctrine. In the 1970s, this gave way to the warming of relations known as Ostpolitik.
The end of the division
By the mid-1980s, the prospect of German reunification was widely regarded within both Germanies as a distant hope, unattainable as long as communists ruled Eastern Europe. This hope was suddenly placed within reach by political changes within the Soviet Union.
In August 1989, Hungary removed its border restrictions with Austria and in September more than 13,000 East Germans escaped to the West through Hungary. Mass demonstrations against the East German regime began in late 1989, most prominently the Monday demonstrations in Leipzig. Erich Honecker resigned in October, 1989. The travel restrictions for East Germans were removed by the new government on November 9, 1989, and many people immediately went to the Wall where the border guards opened access points and allowed them through.
On March 18, 1990 the first and only free elections in the history of the GDR were held, producing a government whose major mandate was to negotiate an end to itself and its state. Under Prime Minister Lothar de Maizière, it negotiated with West Germany, Great Britain, France, the USA and the Soviet Union the preconditions for a German reunification. Parallel to this, negotiations between the East and West German governments led to the signing on 18 May of an agreement for an intermediate step, an Economic, Social and Currency Union, which entered into force on 1 July. On 23 August the East German Parliament (Volkskammer) approved the proposed 3 October accession to the FRG. The German "Einigungsvertrag" (Unification Treaty) was signed on August 31, 1990 by representatives of the FRG and GDR. On September 12, 1990 the Treaty on the Final Settlement With Respect to Germany (Two Plus Four Treaty) was signed and officially reestablished the sovereignty of both German states.
Germany was officially reunified on October 3, 1990, when the five reestablished federal states (Bundesländer) of East Germany formally joined the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), choosing one of two options implemented in the West German constitution (Grundgesetz). As the new founded German states formally joined the Federal Republic, the area in which the Grundgesetz (basic law) served as constitution was simply extended. The other choice would have been for East Germany to join as a whole along the lines of a formal union between two German states that then would have had to, amongst other things, create a new constitution for the new founded country. Though the option chosen clearly was simpler, it is and has been responsible for sentiments in the East of being "occupied" or "annexed" by the old Federal Republic.
To facilitate this process and to reassure other countries, the FRG made some changes to the "Basic Law" (constitution). Article 146 was amended so that Article 23 of the current constitution could be used for reunification. Then once the five "reestablished federal states" in East Germany had joined, the Basic Law was amended again to indicate that there were no other parts of Germany, which existed outside of the unified territory, that had not acceded. But the constitution can be amended again at some future date and it still permits the adoption of another constitution by the German people at some time in the future.
Effects of reunification
The cost of reunification has been a heavy burden to the German economy and has contributed to Germany's slowed economic growth in recent years. The costs of reunification are estimated to amount to over 1.5 trillion Euro (statement of Freie Universität Berlin) (1.9 trillion U.S. Dollars). This is more than the national debt of the German state . The primary cause of this was the severe weakness of the East German economy, especially vis-à-vis the West German economy, combined with a (politically motivated) conversion rates from East German Mark to the Deutschmark that did not reflect this economical reality, resulting in a very sudden (usually fatal) loss of competitiveness of East German industries. Today, there are already special transfers of more than 100 billion euros every year to rebuild the eastern part of Germany. During the 1980s, the capitalist economy of West Germany had prospered while the communist economy of East Germany had declined. Providing goods and services to East Germany strained the resources of West Germany. Money-losing industries formerly supported by the East German government had to be privatized.
Following reunification, Germany followed the social policies of Geschichtsaufarbeitung (working through history) and Vergangenheitsbewältigung (mastering the past) to deal with their violent history.
Since unification, hundreds of thousands of former East Germans have continued to migrate to western Germany to find well-paying jobs.
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