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Genscher: 'Europe needs a fresh start'

Berthold Stevens/mkNovember 8, 2014

On the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Wall former German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher tells DW that he does not believe "the opportunities offered by the year 1989 were realized as they could have been."

Hans-Dietrich Genscher
Image: DW/M.Müller

Genscher says that in light of the new tensions in Eastern and Western Europe, Europe needs a "fresh start."

Looking back at the fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago, he says that at that time, he had not been concerned that there might be further potential for violent conflict or bloodshed.

"This issue was settled by the large demonstrations on October 9, 1989 in Leipzig and by the fact that the National People's Army did not intervene." The question was actually whether Gorbachev and Shevardnadze would be able to stay on course and achieve their goals. "This worry accompanied us until the very last day when the "Two Plus Four" treaty was signed in the late summer of 1990," Genscher remembers.

He points out that, while the timing of the fall of the Berlin Wall may have been a surprise, "the final result" was not. After all, the aim of the long-term policy of détente was to "resolve the primary cause of tensions in Europe," the division of Germany.

Genscher says that he had not been worried by the initial reservations of Great Britain and France. He had been certain that sooner or later, the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher would "act in concert with the Americans."

"It would be wrong to claim that French President Francois Mitterrand had been opposed to German reunification. Mitterrand was concerned mainly about getting assurances that "a united Germany would continue on a European course. And I could make those assurances in good conscience."

Genscher calls the assertion that France only agreed to reunification under the condition that Germany give up the Deutschmark and introduce a common European currency, "a fairy tale."

"Both sides have cause to reflect"As to the question of whether, in light of the current developments in Eastern Europe, he fears a return to the Cold War, Genscher says, "It is a big concern, because I do not believe that the opportunities offered by the year 1989 were realized as they could have been."

Hans-Dietrich Genscher
Hans-Dietrich Genscher talks to DW special correspondent Christian F. TrippeImage: DW/M.Müller

This is why what is needed to support efforts "to create what Gorbachev calls the common European home, is fresh energy," Genscher says. "We need a fresh start." The NATO-Russia Council should be revived. "This great achievement" was created specifically for times of crisis.

"Now we have the crisis, and the Council is not convening. I think that this gives both sides cause to reflect." Compared to other major problems such as refugee flows or global public health, "the problems that Europe is squabbling over today seem pretty small," says Genscher.

The former German foreign minister also rejected the assertion that Russia was deliberately misled by promises that NATO would not advance to the Russian border.

This was "never the subject of negotiations, and most certainly not a negotiation result." Rather, in the "Two Plus Four" treaty "a clear consensus was reached" regarding the future of the territory of the former German Democratic Republic: "Germany would only station troops there, not install weapons of mass destruction. And a reunified Germany would have fewer soldiers than there had been in the former West Germany." That was the only commitment that was made, says Genscher.

"Internal union long since achieved"

When asked about the current developments in the German federal state of Thuringia and the possibility of a left-wing premier in the form of Bodo Ramelow, Genscher says, "German democracy is strong enough to sustain that."

Such a new coalition would have to "follow the rules just like any other." That is why, on this topic, Genscher prefers "not to forecast doom and gloom. But I would say, watch carefully to see what comes of the promises."

Germans have "long since achieved internal union." Germany is a federal country that encompasses many differences. "This diversity is a great strength."

DW is broadcasting the TV interview, conducted by Christian F. Trippe in Bonn, on Sunday November 9, 2014 in the program "Journal Interview":


It will subsequently also be available in the DW Media Center:


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