The peaceful revolution in East Germany was followed by the fall of the Berlin Wall in autumn 1989 and the collapse of the ruling communist regime. The courage of individual East German citizens played a major part in overcoming the communist dictatorship. At the same time, the issue of Germany’s reunification moved onto the political agenda.
The path to the Unification Treaty
The Treaty establishing an economic, monetary and social union between the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic of 18 May 1990 was the first important constitutional step towards restoring unity.
Immediately after its entry into force, negotiations on the Unification Treaty started in Berlin on 4 July 1990.
On 23 August the first – and last – freely elected People’s Chamber of the GDR decided that the country should officially accede to the territory covered by the Basic Law, i.e. the Federal Republic of Germany. On 22 July 1990, the People’s Chamber had decided to restore the states (Länder) of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia and Saxony, which had been dissolved by the GDR government in 1952. The unification of Berlin is based on Article 1 of the Unification Treaty, the first paragraph of which stipulates: “The city-state of Berlin is made up of the 23 districts of Berlin.”
International aspects of Germany’s unification were governed by the Treaty on the Final Settlement With Respect to Germany (or the Two-plus-Four Treaty) of 12 September 1990 between the Federal Republic of Germany, the GDR, the USA, the Soviet Union, France and the United Kingdom.
Under this treaty, the former “four powers” ceded their special rights and obligations which they had assumed for Germany at the end of World War II. In this way, the treaty fully restored Germany’s sovereignty (Article 7). The right of united Germany to join alliances, including all related rights, expressly remains unaffected (Article 6).
The treaty includes a provision on the definitive form and nature of united Germany’s borders and states that united Germany will confirm its border with Poland in a treaty binding under international law (Article 1). This was carried out with the German-Polish Border Treaty of 14 November 1990.
The Two-plus-Four Treaty constitutes a peace treaty as referred to in the Potsdam Protocol of 2 August 1945 and in other basic documents on the legal situation of post-war Germany.
Germany’s reunification on 3 October 1990 ended 40 years of division.