Germany's Responsibility for Eastern Europe
BERLIN -- In West Berlin the days and nights after November 9, 1989, we welcomed and hugged complete strangers, our East German countrymen, on the streets, chatting over a cup of coffee or a glass of Glähwein, with inconceivable and indescribable sentiments of ecstatic joy and happiness. The political mood in Germany and Eastern Europe today, however, seems sometimes to be rather that of a hangover. Everyone had expectations that have not been met. Various tasks of the transformation in Germany and in Eastern Europe are far from being completed. But what do these unfulfilled hopes and endeavors mean in light of the never-expected historic achievements in all of Europe and even in Russia? President George H.W. Bush's fervent support of Chancellor Helmut Kohl's policy was the decisive key to overcoming French President FranÃ§ois Mitterand's concerns and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's firm resistance to the reunification of Germany -- the second time that the United States had rebuilt Germany in the 20th century, after Germany's liberation from Nazism.
In spite of Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev's early reluctance, the reunited Germany became a member of NATO, as even he believed in "all European nations coming together under one roof." States of the former Soviet Union, such as the Baltic States, became members of NATO and the EU, as did other Eastern European countries. In 2007, the EU accepted the accession of Romania and Bulgaria even though the implementation of good government in both states is still lagging behind EU standards today. More than 80% of the national laws of every EU member state are derived from EU rules. This indicates the extent to which every EU member state is integrated into the EU, leaving aside the billions of euros the new member states received for the stabilization of their weak economies and agriculture. Even Russia, in spite of its democratic and civil failings, is no longer the Soviet Union of 1989. Although Gorbachev might have raised a lot of Western hopes for integrating Russia into Europe, it can hardly come as a surprise that a country that had acted as an empire for centuries has grievances about the loss of almost all of its Eastern Bloc neighbors to the Western orbit. But Russia's post-imperial grievances turn out to be more problematic for Russia than for its neighbors. Their alignment with the West is irreversible. The Warsaw Pact and the Breshnev doctrine are history.
The political clout of East European states has grown with their EU membership. Their influence in the East European neighborhood is crucial for the EU, but at the same time requires the support of major EU states. Germany, with its new government, is going to recognize once again the importance of Eastern Europe -- both inside and outside the EU -- for Europe's security as a whole.
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