Visit of German Chancellor Helmut KOHL to European Parliament

After Germany’s surrender on the 7th of May 1945[1], it was split up into 4 occupation zones controlled by Britain, France, the USA and the Soviet Union. However, it soon became clear that the political opinions about democracy of Western countries (Britain, France and the USA) did not go along with the politics of the Soviet Union. Therefore, in 1949[2], two separate states were created: the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in the East and the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). Since the creation of these two states, any German politician’s aim was to reunite Germany. During Helmut Kohl’s term in office, a new Secretary General of the communist party in the Soviet Union was selected: Michail Gorbatschow. He introduced a reform policy in the GDR which motivated people to cry for freedom and a reunified Germany. Helmut Kohl took advantage of the situation and on the 28th of November 1989[3], he presented the so-called “10-point program” to the Bundestag. It carried many changes and had very significant social and economic impacts. These two areas sum up the impact the 10-point program had on Germany as they reflect on the personal aspects as well as the monetary and therefore political aspects.

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The 10-point program was hugely significant to the Eastern German civilians. On the 13th of August 1961[4], it was officially prohibited for East Germans to cross the border that separated the BRD and DDR which at the same time meant that East Germans were unable to visit any relatives in the West. On the 28th of November 1989, Kohl held a speech in the Bundestag and said, “Our aim is and remains to ensure that travel in both directions is as unimpeded as possible”. Point 1 of the 10-point program “Emergency measures of a humanitarian nature”[5] had a massive social impact as a side-effect of opening the borders to allow humanitarian and medical help was that civilians were also able to visit the West. Many families that had been separated for nearly 3 decades such as Elisabeth Both and Erna Golz[6], two sisters that had had to live apart for years before being able to see each other again. Helmut Kohl’s plan allowed them to see and hear each other again as Golz, who lived in the DDR, was not able to access a telephone. This was the fate for many, so the 10-point program had great social significance as civilians were able to see their families and friends again.

Furthermore, another significant social aspect of the 10-point program was the second point “Extensive economic aid”[7]. It stated that both the telephone network and the railway lines in the DDR were to be upgraded.[8] This also helped combat the problem addressed before, as one of the main reasons why it was hard for the siblings to keep in touch, was that letters took a very long time and the telephone network was very poorly developed in the DDR. Consequently, even the people that were not able to travel to visit their relatives could keep in touch which made this point a major social change. However, the improvements of the railway connections were not as consequential because the two lines that were revived, linked Hannover and Berlin, and Moscow, Warsaw and Berlin [9]– all very large cities. This change did not impact the families that lived in East German rural areas as many were not able to travel to these big cities and benefit from the improvements. The most efficient way to get to Berlin, Warsaw or Moscow was by car; something many were lacking as you often had to wait up to 10 years to be able to purchase the “Trabant”.[10] Hence the amelioration of the railway lines did not greatly affect the East Germans that were living in the countryside.

However, the 10-point program was not only socially significant but also had economic impacts. The ninth point that Helmut Kohl mentioned in his speech was “Disarmament and Arms Control” which was a crucial cause for the end of the Cold War. This resulted in an increase of healthy, working men, which, amongst others, lead to a rise in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over the years[11]. During the Cold War, in 1985, the “Bundeswehr” consisted of nearly half a million soldiers[12], while only 9 years later the size of the army had shrunk to 335,000[13] active soldiers due to the fact that the army was not required to be as large after the Cold War as during. The GDP, on the other hand, experienced a change quite opposite, as it rose steeply during the decade of 1985 to 1995 from 1000 billion to 1899 billion[14]. It is assumable that these developments are interdependent – meaning that the decrease in military strength lead to a much greater increase in GDP than in the other decades. The size of the army was only able to be decreased due to the end of the Cold War which was initiated by the 10-point program. Therefore, one can argue that it did have significant economic impacts.

Closely tied to the last argument is another economic effect of this point; due to Kohl’s plan, Germany saved around 30 billion dollars with the military. In 1988, before the reunification and the 10-point program, West Germany spent about 39 Billion Dollars for the military and safety corresponding to 2.8%[15] of the Gross Domestic Income (GDP). The economic impacts of the decrease of arms were already able to be seen at the end of Kohl’s reign in 1998 where the expenses for the military had dropped to 1.5% of the GDP[16], adding up to only 33.6 billion dollars. Had the expenses as a percentage of the GDP stayed the same, the amount spent would have totaled to 62.8 billion dollars, meaning that Kohl’s program saved 29.2 billion dollars. This money could be invested in further helping the GDR to improve its facilities which made the ninth point very meaningful in the reconstruction of the German Federal Republic.

On the other hand, when talking about economic significance, one must not forget to analyse the long term changes in order to have an overview of the big picture because even though it may have seemed that the 10-point program was very beneficial in saving money for the state, it seems that it was not used in a way that made a lasting difference to nowadays society. Estimated 1.6 trillion[17] Euros were spent to try and reconstruct East Germany and make it catch up with the West, but recent numbers have proven that the East is trailing behind in various aspects. After having experienced rapid growth during the 1990’s, East Germans had to discover that their economy stopped augmenting and ended up resting at around 70% to 80%[18] of the Western reference[19]. It does not seem like the gap will close very soon as the growth rate of the East German economy is significantly lower than the West German and in order to come even close to bringing the two halves to the same per capita economic output, the Eastern economy would have to grow much more rapidly than the Western[20]. However, this is not the case as the economy in the former East only grew by 1.4% in comparison to a 2.3% increase[21] in the GDP of the West. Furthermore, if you look at what share of Germany each of the different Bundesländer have (excluding the city-states), a clear trend is also able to be detected: The West continues to have a lot more economic power than the East. The largest share of Germany an Eastern Bundesland had in 2010 was Saxony with 3.7% while Baden-Wuerttemberg’s number was nearly 5 times as high with 14.9%[22]. One Western Bundesland owns more of Germany than all Eastern Bundesländer together. To summarise, these numbers, showing the economic situation of East Germany until today, show that the terms addressed in the 10-point program that intended to improve the East’s economic situation did not have very significant long-term economic influences, as the East has, even after nearly 30 years, not been able to catch up with the West’s financial developments.

In conclusion, it is true that, when speaking about the differences between East and West, the 10-point plan was not very significant economically as East Germany still cannot keep up with the West, but Kohl’s plan improved the monetary situation of Germany as a whole. He reduced the nation’s arms to a strategic minimum and therefore saved a big part of the former expenses for military and security. However, the economic impacts did not stay strictly economic as without the money generated from especially the ninth point, there would have been no social changes at all. Young men would have still had to live apart from their families to serve in the military and over decades separated families would have had to remain out of contact for even longer because there would have been no money to improve the telephone network and the railway lines. Although the social changes often did not greatly affect the Eastern Germans living in rural areas, overall, one can say that a lot of major social and a few major economic changes arose from the 10-point program so in total it can be judged as a very significant concept in German history.

READ:
THE “HUNDRED DAYS” OFFENSIVE- World War One

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mepeDkIWAXJMAhiQvFDTZqvf1yBJLsvsmf_9ll3h2ZigfxWzbmCNJ6ur8-Taf0ZffKUxADKKv–rZX7pcYtEUI9G65d5dMKarV8wRbyW98p7KG7byKhcgeybySWxEMT45Y

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[14] See figure 1, appendix

[15] See figure 2, appendix

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Available at: https://www.zeit.de/2017/22/deutsche-einheit-wiedervereinigung-ostdeutschland-westdeutschland-solidarpakt

[18] See figure 3, appendix

[19] Blum, Ulrich. “An Economic Life in Vain − Path Dependence and East Germany’s Pre- and Post-Unification Economic Stagnation −.” Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft Leibniz Information Centre for Economics Accessed May 19, 2019. [online]

Available at: https://www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/52393/1/67100039X.pdf

[20] Neubacher, Alexander, and Michael Sauga. “Germany’s Disappointing Reunification: How the East Was Lost” SPIEGEL ONLINE. Last modified July 1, 2010. Accessed May 19, 2019. [online]

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[21]The East-West Divide is Diminishing, but Differences Still Remain” The Local – Germany’s News in English. Last modified October 2, 2018. Accessed May 19, 2019. [online]

Available at: https://www.thelocal.de/20181002/the-east-west-divide-is-diminishing-but-differences-still-remain

[22] Own numbers extracted from the Volkswirtschaftliche Gesamtrechnung der Länder, File R1B1, Destatis

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