German Unification

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:14 pm on 19th October 1990.

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Photo of Dr Alan Glyn Dr Alan Glyn , Windsor and Maidenhead 1:14 pm, 19th October 1990

It is not often that I agree with the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), but I agree with him about the role played by Mr. Gorbachev. However, I must also pay tribute—the hon. Gentleman will not agree with me—to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who lit the torch of freedom when she visited Poland. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that not everything in the German Democratic Republic was bad, but I am sure that he will agree that it was an oppressive regime.

Those of us who knew Europe before the last war, and who then saw its artificial break-up as a result of the Yalta conference, would never have believed that its reunification could take place so quickly. Again, we must pay tribute for that to Mr. Gorbachev and my hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Reunification has wide implications—some good, some bad. It will cost a great deal of money, and although there is a great pool of labour in East Germany, its industry has broken down, and it will take about 10 years for everything to be sorted out.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) pointed out that Germany is paying not only for its own reconstruction but for Soviet troops in East Germany to be withdrawn and rehoused in the Soviet Union, wherever the Soviets may choose. That has two advantages. It gets the troops out of Germany quickly, and at a very low price. Rather than pay for them to remain there, it is just as well to get them out of the way altogether. It is a miracle that Germany is able to do that without destroying its own economy. I was worried that, economically, reunification would destroy Germany, but instead it seems likely to become one of the most powerful economic units in Europe.

There is no point in paying tribute to the people who have made reunification possible. Instead, we must ask ourselves what role they are to play in the future. May we expect them to neglect a military role, and instead to spend money on rehabilitating a combined Germany—as was done after the last war? It seems possible that Germany can do the same again.

Shall we stop at Germany, or shall we also welcome into Europe countries such as Czechoslovakia and Hungary? That may be a good idea, with the proviso that those countries attain democracy first. Subject only to that, we should surely welcome them into a united Europe that might eventually include even Russia. There is no reason why that should not happen. There are immense opportunities for a united Europe.

If all that occurs, what are we to do with the NATO troops who would be withdrawn from Europe? Given the experience of the Gulf crisis, the right thing might be to create an international force, so that the resources made available as a consequence of reunification throughout Europe could be used to deal with any situation that arose. It might not even be a NATO force, because NATO, too, might lose some of its significance. Nevertheless, it. would he capable of bringing peace to the middle east, the Gulf, South America or anywhere else in the world. However, we must realise that many nations are developing weapons that are not exactly nice—nuclear and chemical weapons. We must retain sufficient nuclear capacity to be able to say to them, "Look here, it's no good your trying this on, because we have a stronger force and you will be wiped out." That argument kept the peace for 40 years and it must be maintained.

No doubt, a strong Germany after reunification will be a strong competitor, but we have to live with the new Germany, accept it and work with it. We must try to get Germany interested, not merely in its own affairs but in world peace. East and West Germany suffered equally in two wars, so that would not be too much to ask now. Germany was built up by America, with the help of other nations. It has survived two wars and it is time that it helped an international force to maintain peace in the rest of the world.

I look towards a united Germany to fulfil that commitment to world peace not merely with weapons and armies but with money. I hope that it will assume such responsibilities when unification is complete, or should I say when reconstruction has finished. I agree that It may take 10 years, but during that time Germany should not neglect its contribution to world peace and it should be reminded of that.