Reuniting Europe

That’s the question to ask these days to people you met in the meantime. Well, if you or them are at least 30 years of age.

There are moments, like 9/11, when everyone remembers what they have been doing, feeling and experiencing. By the way, the wall also fell on 9/11, but written the European way – the day first and the month second.

For my part, I was in my country Bulgaria, in Sofia, and I could not believe my eyes, because on the next day, on 10 November, Todor Zhivkov, who was the unchanged leader since I was small, was toppled by his fellow Politburo members. Everyone saw this on television. It was a coup d’etat, but it was felt by people as a revolution.

Twenty years later, a Bulgarian daily, “24 chasa”, published an interview with a famous Bulgarian intellectual and anti-fascist, filmmaker Anjel Wegenstein, who disclosed that the first huge anti-communist rally in Sofia, held on 18 November, of which he was one of the organisers, took place to some extent under a scenario inspired by Markus Wolf, the head of STASI (relieved of his duties some time before the Berlin Wall fell).

I am sure there will be more revelations, but later…

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  1. I recall that day vividly, it had a major impact for me, in an unclear political context.

    On 10 October, I was – symbolically! – driving with my sister, from Cologne (where I had been studying, working and setting up a student organisation), back to Paris. On the road, we had several hours to listen to perplexed French politicians and enthoutiastic German commentators and citizens.

    I was – and still am – germanophile, and just had two years of deep Germany experience, so I was happy myself. At the student organisation AEGEE-Europe, we had a view that Europe – hence also Germany – should be re-united one day. We also had contacts with some East German students, but were also worried about infiltration, therefore waited until the Berlin Wall fell, and then expanded in Central Europe very fast (which still continues today in Eastern Europe: the next pending re-unification ?).

    Two years earlier, as Secretary General of the Student Union of Sciences Po in Paris, I recall getting nice literature and study trip invitations from ‘eastern block’ associations promoting ‘international friendship and peace in the world’ (surely inspired by ‘mejdanarodnaia droujba & mir mira’, sorry for lack of Russian characters). At AEGEE-Europe, we also received the visit of a top adviser of Gorbatchev… There were rumors that several secret services were monitoring us: true or not, in any case we felt in the middle of history! 🙂

    So, I was rejoicing. But I had not idea how re-unification would be done.

    In the following days and weeks and months, the situation was not so clear. Some German organisations, for example Die Grünen & Alternativen – but also some of the East German associations – were in favour of a neutralised Germany, a kind of buffer zone between NATO (and France) and the Warsaw Pact. A book that I recall from that time, making the choice clear: ‘Reden über das eigene Land’.

    What a mistake this would have been to compromise with an outdated system! I had spent two summers in Berlin: one to learn German and discover both sides of the city, and one to study the alternative circles, which were going much beyond ecology. I recall buying several cheap books on sozialistiche Betriebsökonomie, and asking about Gortbatchev’s ‘Glasnost & Perterstroika’: I was told, with a telling smile: ‘it’s not available, and we really regret it…’ Years later, as I co-founded EuReforme among EU Commision staff, I would recall this and create a working group ‘Glasnost & Perestroika’, before moving on and setting up EurActiv (not, I don’t mean that our baseline on transparency and efficiency is directly inspired by Gortbatchov!)

    These contacts with German greens led me to some interest in their new ideas on greening society, but not to doubting our Western model. As I worked years later in Russia, helping to restructure companies badly managed by former apparatchiks, I became even more convinced by social market economy rather than any form of communist follow-up.

    Most neighbouring countries were in favour of a ‘larger West Germany’, that we knew and could trust. And this is exactly what happened in the end: not a merger but a clear take-over. Very frustrating for ‘Ossies’, on wrong monetary terms, but overall quite efficient and democratic: a success.

    Further European integration is softer than in the 80’s and 90’s. Enlargement is the EU version of the German merger. Maybe new modes of integration will have to be invented for large countries in Eastern and Southern Europe, taken more account of their characteristics and not imposing all political aspects of EU enlargement. What have your own view on this, and what the Berlin Wall feel? You can react here, or also to other posts in the ‘enlargement’ sections of Blogactiv:





  2. We should have kept the Iron Curtain, The Com-econ and the Warsaw pact.

    We had a strong army, a strong economy, and security.

    Now we have nothing, everything is the hand of the Invaders.

  3. No!

    These infrastructures could have been transformed into a democratic Eastern/Central European alliance.

    Of course we would kicked Russia out.

    But now, my country is ruined, and it will be worse.

  4. Thank you very much for the article.
    I totally agree on the importance of Gorbachev inEast-west politics. I remember that during his reing one could see the first real documentaries form the Soviet Unuion, from people in the streets talking and being interviewed. That was one thing. And then his appearance, more modest, listening, he was the first politician to look real to me. And then, being pushed aside, or forgotten at the fall of the wall for example. I think many were looking for him, or his name then and after. I did. One thing in particular opened my eyes completely to the greatness, and the visionary rethoric, of this man, the film by German Wim Wenders: Wings of desire, I was deeply touched by that scene, forgetting it was a film.Gorbachev talked to the world, for a better world., no worn out Soviet phrases. I hope many can see the film and that very scene can be shown separately, many times.And at the film festival where I saw it, the audience talked a lot about that scene. A key to e new world, new coexistance and a new Europe.
    I am right now reading and translating a French biography on Mihail Gorbachev.

    I hope to read more of you,
    Leif Olsson
    translator. dramatisk and thatre director

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