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Freedom as the Core of the German Question (March 15, 1984)

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Fifth: We must unify Europe in order to also complete the unification of Germany in freedom.

As a country in the heart of Europe, at the focal point of the European power systems, Germany was repeatedly the site where other countries asserted their respective interests. There were also phases in which Germans repressed the dangers associated with our central location in Europe. They yielded to the temptation to take an independent route as a nation and in those days put their faith in a politics of hegemony. We all know that our country then failed. Our generation learned a lesson from that historical experience. No special path [Sonderweg] by Germany can lead our country out of the heart of Europe. We have to and want to shape our future within a European framework and resolve our national question as a work of peace.

We are aware of the European dimension to Germany’s division, which we can only overcome with the support of the peoples of Europe, that is, our neighbors. We are also aware of the great responsibility that our country in particular has as a stabilizing factor in the heart of Europe. No one should believe that Germans would ever again disregard their European responsibility. Peace must go forth from German soil. We are immune to any temptation to shed our European ties, ignore the stability of all of Europe, and strive to overcome the division in isolation from our neighbors.

There is also another side to these European ties. With Germany’s claim to free self-determination, divided Europe can find a strength that can also serve its renewal and its unification. At the same time, all Europeans know that overcoming the division of Europe requires a peaceful order for Germany, and this must be approved by the entire German people in free self-determination. We are aware of the fact, ladies and gentlemen, that the national conception of Germans and the European idea are interdependent. For us, European policies and Deutschlandpolitik are two sides of the same coin. Being a driving force for the unification of Europe has been part of the national task, the reason of state, of the Federal Republic of Germany from the very beginning. Our liberal political culture needs the European horizon of shared basic values.

[ . . . ]

Sixth: The German nation belongs to the West.

Our place is and will always be in the alliance for freedom. The political system of the western democracies – with civil liberties, rule of law, political self-determination – is worth protecting internally and defending externally. For us, that means that some things are self-evident, also in the future: free elections, freedom of opinion and expression, independent trade unions, freedom of movement, and much more. We owe this to ourselves and to our allies, and, ladies and gentlemen, we also owe it to the people in central and eastern Europe. They too want to be free, to live in freedom and to exercise self-determination as regards their polity and their political will. Therein lies the true problem of German and European division: in the lack of freedom and self-determination for the people of central and eastern Europe.

[ . . . ]

Ladies and gentlemen, the border between East and West separates what belongs together in peace. Just as the German Question is at the focal point of European history – let me repeat – freedom is the core of the German Question. Freedom is the precondition for unity. It cannot be its price. I issue a firm warning not to be fooled by any illusion that our freedom and our security could be played off against our wishes for unity.

[ . . . ]

Source: Bericht von Bundeskanzler Dr. Helmut Kohl zur Lage der Nation im geteilten Deutschland [Report by Federal Chancellor Dr. Helmut Kohl on the State of the Nation in Divided Germany], March 15, 1984, in Bulletin (Press and Information Office of the Federal Government), no. 30, March 16, 1984, pp. 261-68.

Translation: Allison Brown

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