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François Mitterand on the Issue of German Reunification (July 27, 1989)

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Question: Mr. President, could you imagine the German Question being resolved without the approval of all European countries?

Answer: No, not without the approval of those who today are concerned with the application of the treaties and the Federal Republic’s security. The Germans must of course be able to decide freely for themselves, but the approval of the Soviet Union and the western powers will require a true dialogue.

Question: Since Gorbachev visited Germany the right of the people to self-determination is again the subject of much discussion. Is that the proper approach to a solution?

Answer: One thing is for sure: As indisputable as this right is, it cannot be an occasion for a forceps delivery, to use a medical metaphor. First, the two German governments must agree. Neither of the two German states can force anything upon the other. This German-German aspect is of fundamental importance. None of the leaders of the Federal Republic whom I have met has ever claimed to be able to force reunification by intensifying tensions in Europe.

Question: Is the Federal Republic not in the process of drifting away from the West? Isn’t it trying to assume a special role, to take the so-called special path [Sonderweg] with an eye toward central Europe and the Soviet Union, despite all the risks of neutralism?

Answer: I have noted that those who have a trained eye for the Federal Republic have indeed noticed an effective shift in public opinion. I personally cannot say anything about that. But nothing indicates that the political leadership, the government, or the Federal Chancellor have changed their standpoint at all – if for no other reason than the continued active politics of the Federal Republic in the European Community of twelve.

Let me repeat what I already said about Germany’s geographical location and its history. France has always tended toward Mediterranean policies because of its opening to the Mediterranean, to Africa and the Middle East. Who could point a finger at Germany for paying greater attention to the East, to Poland, the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia? A Germany that has also regained its strength as a great economic power with world status would of course also want to play a greater political role. That is also not surprising. For me this situation is part of the idea that I have of European and world politics, and it gives me reason also to strengthen France’s presence and efforts in the concert of the nations.

Source: French President François Mitterrand on the Issue of German Reunification, Süddeutsche Zeitung, July 27, 1989.

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