Chapter Sixteen - Recognition
IN 1969, PREMIER WILLI STOPH of the GDR asked the newly elected Chancellor Willy Brandt of the Federal Republic to meet him for talks. He proposed a treaty for the purpose of entering into equal relations based on international law. Years of patient work followed, during the course of which Brandt's policy of "Ostpolitik" was born. By the middle of 1969, the GDR had already established diplomatic relations with 20 states.
In the August 1971 issue of Labour Monthly, Geoffrey McDermott, Chairman of the Committee for the Recognition of the German Democratic Republic, wrote:
"The seventeen million citizens of the GDR, without Marshall Aid and despite payment of heavy war reparations to Russia, have transformed their country from a vast heap of ruins into the eighth most powerful industrial nation. They have a vested interest in peace, security and bigger trade with the rest of the world ...It is high time for Great Britain to realise that common sense has been shown by the thirty or so governments which have ambassadors in East Berlin and, in consultation with Bonn, Washington and Paris, to follow their example."
On the 3rd September 1971, a quadripartite agreement on West Berlin was signed by the ambassadors of the Soviet Union, France, Britain and the United States of America. For more than twenty years the West Berlin issue had been a stumbling-block between East and West, the Federal Republic claiming West Berlin as a province within the Federal Republic and the GDR claiming for it a special status outside of the Federal Republic. In the adopted official text of the agreement, reference is made, for the first time (by the Western powers) to the German Democratic Republic as a sovereign state, to the legitimacy of the GDR's borders and to the fact that West Berlin was "not to be a constituent part of the Federal Republic of Germany and not to be governed by it."
Following the signing of this four-power agreement, and the coming into force of the Bonn treaties with Moscow and Warsaw, a series of agreements between the GDR and West Germany, and between the GDR and the West Berlin Senate, also came into force. A new era of peaceful co-existence in Europe had begun. West Germany had accepted the Oder-Neisse line as the border of the GDR with Poland and the existing frontier between the two German states as inviolable.
By the end of 1972, the GDR had established diplomatic ties with 55 states and on the 9th February 1973, Great Britain, who had excused her delay on the grounds that recognition had only become possible following the contractual settlement between the GDR and the FRG, announced the establishment of diplomatic relations with the GDR in a joint press statement. By the following April, nearly 80 countries had normalised their links with the GDR.
But Bonn still held on to certain positions, including a refusal to recognise that the Munich agreement of 1938 was never valid at any time, despite that this attitude was the stumbling-block over normalising relations with Czechoslovakia.
Certain circles in the Federal Republic also disputed the legality of the agreements signed between the GDR and the FRG. Ignoring all the progressive changes that had occurred, they continued to maintain that the old bourgeois German nation still existed and that its frontiers were those of the German Reich of 1937. This "legal position," enshrined in the Preamble to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany, and the practice based upon it, was confirmed by the Federal Constitutional Court in 1973 when it ruled that the frontier between the GDR and the FRG should not be recognised as a state border between two sovereign and equal states and that consequently the inhabitants of the GDR would, in juridical terms, have to be regarded as "Germans as defined by the Constitution" - that is to say, citizens of the German Federal Republic.