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30 years of German reunification - A European success story?

Inga Kjer / IEP
Inga Kjer / IEP

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.

Did you miss the event? You can watch the recording of the discussion on our Youtube channel:

Team & authors

About the EUritage: A European Success Story project: The project raises awareness among young Europeans of the democratic revolutions in Central Europe and the accession of this region to the EU and discusses the relevance of these events for a European culture of remembrance.

Image copyright: Inga Kjer / IEP