It was 30 years ago. The European Parliament, the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification

People celebrating German Reunification in front of the Reichstag, 1990 @European Union

In the night from 9 to 10 November 1989, with absolutely no warning, the Berlin Wall opened at the same time as the communist government of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) collapsed. The Cold War was coming to an end and a momentous page was being turned in Europe's history. A month later, the Brandenburg Gate officially opened, definitively restoring free movement between the two Germanies. On 3 October 1990, German unification was achieved, effectively transforming the future of European integration. Despite the speed of events, the European Parliament played its role to the full, stepping up its efforts in response to these political developments. For several months, it provided a forum for the European leaders tasked with preparing the reunification of Germany. Concerned with the political, economic and institutional implications of this historic moment for the European Community, the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) supported German reunification, increasingly calling for democratisation and respect for human rights in Central and Eastern Europe.

Historical archive documents presented in the digital exhibition

The aim of this selection of archive documents of the European Parliament is to show how, between August 1961 (beginning of the construction of the Berlin Wall) and October 1990 (the German reunification), the Assembly was actively interested in the situation of Germany divided in the context of the Cold War.

Through debates, resolutions, oral or written questions from its members, fact-finding missions, sending delegations or public hearings, Parliament has sought to draw public and media attention to the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the world, not least in countries on the other side of the Iron Curtain. But the European Parliament has also been very involved in the study of the possible consequences of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the German reunification on the European construction process.

For the first time, these original documents are gathered in a virtual exhibition which, together with numerous illustrations, commemorates the 30th anniversary of the reunification of Germany.

70th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration. 9 May 1950

Robert Schuman delivering his declaration in the Salon de l'Horloge in the French Foreign Ministry building at Quai d'Orsay in Paris on 9 May 1950 © European Union, 2020

On 9 May 1950, the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman made a speech in Paris that would change the destiny of our continent. There is no doubt that this 70th anniversary is a great opportunity to celebrate the initiative that turned the European dream into a practical reality.

Robert Schuman was dissatisfied with the slow pace of progress towards a united Europe after the Second World War. So in 1950 he chose a revolutionary approach in proposing not only to combine the coal and steel industries under a common regime, but also to set up a supranational High Authority to administer the two strategically important industries around a Franco-German hub.

Jean Monnet drafted the lion's share of the Schuman Declaration, which suggested that pooling the coal and steel industries would be the first stage in a wider integration process ultimately resulting in a 'European federation'. With a view to safeguarding peace, the Schuman Plan also sought to make war between Europeans not only unthinkable but also materially impossible. The Schuman Declaration was therefore a basis for negotiations, the outcome of which, several months later, was the European Coal and Steel Community.

With the Cold War in full swing and in the face of opposition from various quarters, achieving a result like that took courage and audacity.

Beyond the economic and social issues, the Schuman Plan also sought to lay the foundations for institutions to help map out a shared destiny. The ECSC Treaty, which entered into force in July 1952, therefore established a Common Assembly, a symbol of a nascent Europe, which represented the peoples of the States of the Community. It was the forerunner of our European Parliament.
So it is an excellent time to stage an exhibition like this one. With the European Union facing a number of challenges, let us hope that this slice of history can remind visitors and younger generations of Europeans just how important the Schuman Declaration of 9 May 1950 was.

Enjoy the exhibition!

David Sassoli
President of the European Parliament


The Archives of the European Parliament

Robert Schuman Building
Place de l'Europe
L-2929 Luxembourg