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Willy Brandt on the International Implications of Unification (February 5, 1990)

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BRANDT: I am not satisfied with what the respective ministries have prepared so far – in early February. Up to now, the ladies and gentlemen have operated under the impression that the other side must first satisfy certain requirements, but that we ourselves have time and will only need to contribute marginal amounts. But there isn’t time, and we will be required to offer up a lot, including – and especially – financial payments.

I have nothing against playing simulation games, deciding when which bodies will convene in Berlin or elsewhere. What should I have against Berlin! By the way, this Germany will be federalist and tied into Europe or it will not be at all. The conference of the minister presidents [of the FRG] will presumably meet with the five minister presidents of the GDR before there is a common German government or a government of a federation that could also be called a confederation.

SPIEGEL: Should the federal government make the necessary agreements with the Modrow government or should it wait until after the GDR elections?

BRANDT: No one would object if some important basic points were determined now, in preparation.

SPIEGEL: Could you imagine the Bundestag elections being cancelled?

BRANDT: No, I don’t think so. If we proceed solely on the basis of the Modrow agenda, then unification will not be possible in six months’ time. Yet a lot can be done along the way. But no one will be content with what Modrow proposes. And with all due respect, he also knows that other proposals will follow.

SPIEGEL: Do you agree with those who say that better times will start as soon as unification comes?

BRANDT: Someone – someone whom I take seriously – even said: “Many who are shouting ‘unity’ or ‘reunification’ actually mean prosperity.” And I say to that: “So what! Do you want to hold that against them?” But if it is so, then it’s all the more evidence to support my argument that proclaiming state organs or constitution-like documents does not in itself solve a single practical problem at the outset.

SPIEGEL: If your foremost “grandson”* Oskar Lafontaine were here, he would say that access to pots of meat has nothing to do with the unity of the Germans. If the pots were in Poland rather than here, then the people would go there instead.

* The next generation of the SPD – Oskar Lafontaine, Gerhard Schröder, and Rudolf Scharping – is ironically referred to here as Willy Brandt’s “grandchildren.” At the time the Berlin Wall fell Oskar Lafontaine was thought to be (and considered himself) the most important among them – trans.

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