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Approval for Expansion to the East (October 8, 1993)

Defense minister Volker Rühe was one of the first German politicians to publicly approve the eastward expansion of the Western alliance systems, the European Union and NATO. In his view, they complemented each other and needed to be advanced in parallel to guarantee stability throughout all of Europe. Russia’s security needs, however, also needed to be taken into consideration, and Europe and the United States needed to work in concert.

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Speech by German Defense Minister Volker Rühe on October 8, 1993, at Charles University in Prague (excerpts)

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The European institution of unity – the European Community – is the greatest historical achievement of the postwar era. It must be maintained and developed, intensified and expanded. We must prevent it from becoming frayed or fossilized in what it has already achieved. That is a major creative task of the future – a task not only for present-day members. We do not want an anonymous central state that regulates all affairs from the North Cape to Sicily and from Gibraltar to Ostrava. We do not want a realm of shadows in which nations have lost their identity. Our future lies not in fearful flight into a new collective, but rather in the self-assured will of free nations to join together in all areas of politics. A [common] currency, diplomacy, security and the means to achieve it – these are the elements of the strong community that Europe needs. To accomplish this we need an equitable European burden sharing. Even Southern Europe is wealthy when compared with Central and Eastern Europe. The North-South transfer [of aid funds] must be at least partially redirected into a West-East transfer. To complete the internal unification of Germany we have a comprehensive program, the Solidarity Pact. We also need a pan-European Solidarity Pact. This includes opening up Western markets. Our American friends put it succinctly: “Trade is better than aid.”

But Europe is more than simply an economic undertaking. Europeans must learn to take their common foreign and security policy concerns into their own hands. We also need to think in global contexts to become a more effective and respected player. Europe cannot return to the power games and rivalries of the nineteenth century. We must create a tight and capable community. Only then will Europeans be able to protect their interests and make a decisive contribution to solving global challenges. The Maastricht treaty for a European Union prescribed a clear goal for foreign and security policy as well. It is inherent to the logic of this agreement, but first and foremost in the interest of all participants, to create a community of all Europeans. The intensification and expansion of European integration are inextricably linked. This applies to economic and social issues, and it also applies in equal measure to security policies. The continent must be brought together to form a political, economic, and strategic unit. This is the real task facing Europe now that it has overcome division. It is in no one’s interest to see an unstable Middle Zone* emerge. Despite the individual countries’ differing points of departure, there is a common European security interest: We must understand stability as a pan-European task, so that the transition takes place in an orderly fashion and offers security to all peoples.

Therefore, I have been emphatically advocating the eastward expansion of the Western stability zone for months now. Germany does not wish to remain the eastern border state of the sphere of affluence. In the long run, Western Europe will not do well if the East does badly. Your country, but also Poland, Hungary, and the Slovak Republic are clearly oriented toward the West. I am happy to see that the EC association agreement will be ratified this year. This agreement maps out your admission into the European Union (EU) and the Western European Union (WEU). The Community is based on equal security for all. I cannot imagine that some members of this expanded Community will enjoy the protection of NATO while other members will have to forgo it.

* “Middle Zone”: The German word Zwischeneuropa refers to the zone between Western Europe and Russia, from Estonia to Bulgaria – trans.

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