Enlarge image West Germans greet traveling East Germans with homemade signs as they cross the Glienicke Bridge, a Cold War landmark, connecting Berlin and Potsdam. (© picture-alliance / dpa) With the Wall having fallen in 1989, it was to be another 11 months before Germany was reunited. Germans in both German states welcomed it. In the first (and last) free elections to East Germany’s Volkskammer (parliament) on March 18, 1990, the East German electorate voted by an overwhelming majority for those parties that demanded swift accession to West Germany.
In summer 1990 a treaty to this effect was negotiated by the two Germanies, as had the treaty concerning the German-German currency union. Parallel to this, in the Two-plus-Four-Treaty, West and East Germany reached agreement with the four powers responsible for Berlin and Germany as a whole, i.e., the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain and France, on the conditions with regard to foreign and security policy determining German unity.
Enlarge image On May 5, 1990, the foreign ministers of East and West Germany, and the USSR, France, Great Britain and the United States met in Bonn for the first formal round of the "Two plus Four" talks. (© picture-alliance / dpa) In terms of the old demand for “unity in freedom” the German Question was finally solved in 1990. It could only be solved with the approval of all the country’s neighbors, which also meant: with the solution at the same time of another problem that had dominated the century: the Polish Question. The final recognition, binding under international law, of the fact that the Oder and Neisse Rivers formed the western border of Poland was a precondition of the reunification of Germany in the borders of 1945.
Unified democratic constitutional state
Post-reunification Germany sees itself not as a “postnational democracy among nation states,” as the political scientist Karl Dietrich Bracher once termed the “old” Federal Republic in 1976, but rather a post-classical democratic national state among others – firmly embedded in the Atlantic Alliance and in the supra-national confederation of states that is the European Union (EU), in which certain aspects of national sovereignty are pursued jointly with other member states.
Enlarge image (© BPA) There is much here that distinguishes the second German state from the first – namely everything that had made Bismarck’s Reich a military and authoritarian state. There is, however, also some form of continuity between the first and the second nation state. As a democratic constitutional state, a federal and welfare state the reunited Federal Republic of Germany very much follows traditions that date well back to the 19th century. The same applies to the universal, equal suffrage and the parliamentary culture, which had emerged in the Reichstag during the German Reich. A certain geographical continuity is also clearly evident: The Two-plus- Four-Treaty, the constitutional founding document of the reunited Federal Republic of Germany, once again outlined in writing the smaller German solution, the existence of the separate states of Germany and Austria.