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Norbert Blüm and Wolfgang Schäuble Debate the Location of the Capital (June 20, 1991)

During the Bundestag debate on the location of the capital, CDU social policy spokesman Norbert Blüm argued that Bonn stood for the Federal Republic’s new democratic beginning and emphasized that moving the capital would be too costly. Blüm’s CDU colleague, legal expert Wolfgang Schäuble, was of another opinion and argued on behalf of moving the capital to Berlin. Schäuble presented Berlin as a symbol of national unity – one with the power to help reunite the European continent.

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Dr. Norbert Blüm (CDU/CSU): Madam President! Ladies and gentlemen! Dear colleagues! Whether Berlin or Bonn, whether parliament and government will be located here or there – the quarrel over this issue must not rob us of the joy that we are one people, reunited and free,

(Applause throughout the chamber)

and that we are able, once again, to debate where constitutional bodies in Germany should be located.

[ . . . ]

But the accomplishments of Bonn must not be minimized after forty years of the Federal Republic.

(Applause among deputies of the CDU/CSU, the FDP, and the SPD)

The name of Bonn is associated with the longest liberal and peaceful period in our history. The period of time associated with Bonn was – and is – a good one.

[ . . . ]

Bonn has grown beyond being a provisional entity. It’s not a way station where governing was done on suitcases. Bonn has gained republican significance of its own. Great historical moments are linked to Bonn. We passed the Unification Treaty in Berlin and in Bonn. We voted for it in Berlin and in Bonn.

The nation-state that we desire is embedded within Europe and divided into regions. Europeanization and regionalization, these are the poles of a modern nation-state. I ask you, ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues: Does a dominating capital fit within such a federal solution?

(Dr. Margret Funke-Schmitt-Rink [FDP]: “Yes!” Shouts from the CDU/CSU: “No!”)

I think not. A capital of Berlin with parliament and the seat of government would, I fear, create a wake that would also erode the newly won self-confidence of the new federal states.

Not without reason do states with a robust federal self-confidence refrain from locating their seats of parliament and government in their largest cities: the Americans didn’t put their capital in New York but rather in Washington; the Canadians put theirs not in Montreal or Toronto but Ottawa; the Swiss not in Zurich but Bern. Shouldn’t we be guided by the wisdom and experience of other federal states?

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