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EUritage: 30 years of German reunification — A European success story?


How do different EU countries interpret the democ­ratic upheavals of 1989? Experts and contem­porary witnesses discussed the role of the common heritage of 1989 in the European integration process.

The fall of the Berlin Wall more than three decades ago set in motion a series of trans­for­mation processes in Germany and Europe that led to German reuni­fi­cation and EU enlargement in 2004. “The year of change in 1989 evokes ambivalent reactions in today’s European societies,” empha­sised Katrin Böttger, one of the two directors of the IEP, during her intro­ductory words.

Eastern European countries such as Hungary and the Czech Republic have their own perspective on German reuni­fi­cation. The fall of the Berlin Wall influ­enced the situation at the German embassy compound in Prague or the Solidarnosc demon­stra­tions. Even though the democ­ratic upheavals in all Central and Eastern European states can be summarised into a European success story, every single trans­for­mation in the countries was charac­terised by individual prereq­ui­sites and peculiarities.These do not receive suffi­cient attention in the public debate and should be heard more in view of the current populist and author­i­tarian tendencies.

On a personal level, key events such as the press conference with Günter Schabowski on 9 November 1989 or emotional encounters with refugees from the GDR shape the memories of contem­porary witnesses. Younger gener­a­tions who did not consciously witness the fall of the Berlin Wall are much more influ­enced by a European identity, but should also be aware of the impor­tance of 1989. This is because without a reunified Europe, this EU identity would not exist. In order to maintain an active and diverse culture of remem­brance, places of exchange and dialogue between different gener­a­tions are indispensable.

The panelists, who, under the moder­ation of our colleague Simone Klee, spoke about the perspec­tives of different countries and gener­a­tions towards 1989, met in the framework of the “EUritage” project. It was the first hybrid event of the IEP after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which connected partic­i­pants in Berlin and online.