HL Deb 17 January 1990 vol 514 cc644-80

3.10 p.m.

Lord Callaghan of Cardiff rose to call attention to the prospect of German unification; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to call attention to the prospect of German unification and to move for Papers. I have chosen this subject not only because of its great significance to the German people but because the ending of any division of Germany will set off a chain reaction which will radically affect the other nations of Europe.

The extraordinary events of recent months have already overturned a political structure in Europe which has been settled for almost the past half century. I submit that 1989 will go down in history with the revolutions for 1789 and 1848 as a momentous year of hope, when men and women demanded freedom and seized democracy. Communism is discredited and the post-war Europe shaped by Potsdam and Yalta is in the process of dying. For the moment the people and not governments are making the running.

How will their revolutions go? In the short time which has elapsed we can see already that there are dangers as well as hope if nationalism, latent at the moment, runs wild and dangers too when people find that a revolution by itself is not enough to fill the shops.

As to divided Germany, the cold war between East and West has, for over 40 years, enabled us to put on one side any serious discussion about the shape and size of Germany or about reunification and also to close our eyes to its consequences. German leaders themselves have consistently told us that they could see no prospect of unification within their lifetime. However, today, as with so many other of the seemingly impossible changes which took place during 1989, the distant vision has suddenly become tomorrow's reality. Indeed, in practical terms, the process of melding the two Germanys has already begun and will soon be in full swing.

Already at the recent meeting between Chancellor Kohl and Prime Minister Modrow in Dresden, the two governments agreed to establish no fewer than 11 joint commissions to co-ordinate their interest in practically every aspect of their national life; namely, economic, social, cultural, environmental, energy, transport and so on. They are to have another meeting in a fortnight's time at which I have no doubt those matters will progress further. We cannot yet see how much further they are likely to go. Chancellor Kohl has given us 10 steps to reunification. In fact he has proposed the setting up of a confederation between the two states which will lead in due course, he says or hopes, to a federation. Other ideas may emerge. However, whatever is adopted in the end, there is no doubt that the momentum for unification in some form is now irreversible and the rest of Europe as well as the Soviet Union must adjust to that fact.

It goes without saying that, if a unified Germany is to have a heathy long-term future, it can only be brought into existence by the full consent of the German people expressed through the democratic process in both parts of Germany. Free elections with proper access to all the media and the opportunity for the opposition parties in East Germany to put their case are vital necessities. However, with that as a basis, if that is a basis and if the people of both Germanys decide that they wish to come together, not only will the coming together be inevitable but Germany will be the most powerful economic and political state in Europe.

Now that Western Europe is faced with that as a practical matter, instead of merely giving approval to a distant possibility as it has done in the past, there is some hesitation and nervousness, which is not surprising. However, in my view, Western Europe cannot step back at this late stage. Our task is not to thwart or delay the process. That is a course which would, in any event, be ineffective if the German people want unification. Our task is to ensure that the new constellation which takes its place will be an element for stability and security in the new Europe —a new Europe which is emerging now from the Atlantic to the Soviet borders.

German leaders of all parties there have shown themselves to be sensitive to that concern. They understand that a united Germany would have implications far beyond the new borders. However cautious the approach may be, neither they nor the rest of Europe can avoid providing answers to some overlapping questions of the highest importance.

Perhaps I may mention just two of those: the first is how to settle the eastern borders Of a united Germany and the second how to satisfy the Soviet Union and Poland that their future security will be assured. I take it for granted that we are concerned about our own. As to the first, I recently summarised the problem as it was originally seen by Konrad Adenauer in an article in The Times newspaper on 5th January and I need not repeat the arguments here today. However, I submit to your Lordships that the answer is clear. It is imperative that the two Germanys unequivocally and formally renounce any claim to recover their lost territories in the East and accept without reservation the existing border between East Germany and Poland. That must be enshrined in a treaty. Even with that essential step completed, the security implications for the Soviet Union are vast. That empire has never made any bones about regarding East Germany and Poland as buffers against attack from the West.

Recently however Mr. Gorbachev has seemed to regard the risk as so diminishing, while the economic and political pressures on him are so great, that he appears to be resigned to relinquishing his grip on the other Warsaw Pact members. We have reached a point where senior Soviet officials have declared their country's intention to withdraw all their troops from East Germany and today we learn that Czechoslovakia seeks the complete withdrawal of the 75,000 troops at present stationed on its territory. If those steps are carried out, it follows that the future military alliances of those and other Warsaw Pact countries will be of the greatest significance to the security of the Soviet Union. I would have no hesitation in insisting upon that issue as being one which should be of concern to us, if we are concerned about the future peace of our continent.

Chancellor Kohl has defined the new relationship with East Germany as a "contractual community". If that were to take the form of a federation with two separate states, two military commands and two separate armies, then the border between East and West Germany, on which NATO's front line stands, would continue to provide a buffer. On the other hand, a fully unified Germany with a single government, one military command and its border extended to the Oder/Neisse line would not.

I suppose it is just possible to believe that two states in a confederal Germany might belong and could continue perhaps to belong to two different alliances, but I believe that before very long such an arrangement would prove to be quite unrealistic and would be abandoned. Nor is it conceivable that a totally united Germany —the most powerful, military, economic and political country in Europe as it would be —could be either neutral or unallied. If it were, it would be likely at some time in the future to feel hemmed in, and Europe has already had previous experience of where that sentiment can lead.

We are uncovering awkward questions, but there are more. The next stage in what I regard as an unstoppable and inevitable "contractual Community", to use Chancellor Kohl's phrase again, would set in train changes in the military doctrines of both blocs. As a leading member of NATO the West German Government have long stated their clear objective of removing battlefield and short-range nuclear weapons from the front line between East and West Germany. How much stronger that pressure will become if it comes from a confederal Germany —not a united Germany; the situation would be different —whose two countries would continue to be separated by the front lines of NATO and the Warsaw Pact.

Such pressure would be irresistible, and with their removal would go much of the remaining credibility of the NATO doctrine of flexible response. Truly it would be inoperable. For the present NATO must remain a shield for the West, with the essential presence of the United States; yet logic compels the conclusion that the political and other changes just around the corner require us to seek a better and more relevant security system for Europe as a whole that will reflect the new realities. However, I repeat the old lines that until we have it, we must cling to nurse for fear of finding something worse.

For myself there is no doubt that on the political plane the European Community has a central role to play, but it must get away from so much of its fussy bureaucracy if it is to have a real role. It should be ready to open its doors to East Germany, to Poland and to others if these states become fully democratic and wish it. The Community has already, I remind your Lordships, proved its political worth as a solvent of the old enmity between France and Germany. It can play a role again in settling the relations between the states as they emerge now from what has been a cold war for too long.

I repeat once more also —I am trying to condense my remarks because I regret that everyone else has only five minutes; it is quite clear we must return to this again —that the CSCE (the Helsinki process) should be an acceptable forum in the search for a security system that will meet the needs of tomorrow's Europe. I ask the Minister, who I am grateful to see here and who will reply to this debate, to give me an assurance that there is no hesitation or reluctance on the part of Her Majesty's Government to use that forum. Having discussed the idea of a peace treaty with one or two others, I believe the time is coming for negotiation to begin between the wartime allies and the two Germanys. This I believe could best begin under the auspices of the Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

There are many problems which I have not touched on but which I am sure your Lordships will pick up during the debate; but it is surely beyond question that Europe faces both a challenge and an opportunity of historic proportions as great as any in the past. It appears to me that Mr. Gorbachev wishes to conduct a serious negotiation in order to reach a new equilibrium in Europe. We must test to the utmost whether that is so. Rarely has the situation been as fluid as it is today with all the possibilities of shaping a new course. We shall need to work very hard if we are to prevent the rise of narrow and destructive nationalisms or centuries old animosities from dividing and weakening us and indeed from diverting us from the very important new problems that will lie ahead of our continent in the 21st century. However, with vision and with vigour, the leaders of Europe have a rare opportunity —something that occurs only once in a lifetime —to establish a framework of understandings and agreements that could ensure for the people of Europe security and peaceful progress within a democratic society. I beg to move for Papers.

3.26 p.m.

Lord Dacre of Glanton

My Lords, we have heard a very distinguished speech, for which we are all grateful, but the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, will forgive me if I am brief on compliments in view of the brevity of the time which is allowed to all of us. I must also be brief on qualifications which might otherwise be introduced. Such brevity simply requires one to be more summary than one would like to be.

I cannot help reflecting when I think of this subject on the several ironies implicit in it. There is the irony that for 45 years we have managed our international affairs without a treaty and that this non-treaty has not only preserved the international peace in Europe but has also lasted longer than any treaty in history which has followed an international war in Europe. That is surely a very remarkable fact and suggests that treaties are perhaps not the necessary way of securing settlement in Europe, as indeed we know from the experience of the Treaty of Versailles.

Moreover, it seems ironical to me that many of those who in the past have advocated the revolt of the enslaved nations of Eastern Europe against their masters have now reversed their position and are lamenting the disappearance of the stabilising force of the Pax Sovietica in the East. Even Mr. Genscher, the German Foreign Minister, who had a reputation for being in favour of unity and neutralism, is now stating publicly that the Warsaw Pact and NATO are necessary stabilising forces to be retained.

It is said that we should seize this opportunity in order to create a formal treaty and a final settlement with Germany and that this should include a formal renunciation of the eastern frontier of the Oder/Neisse line; but I wonder whether that will really achieve the result that we seek. The Federal Republic is on record as accepting these eastern frontiers. East Germany is not. We know very little about East Germany. East Germany, the only country in which views were suppressed, is the only part of Germany in which to any significant extent we still hear echoes of Nazism.

I therefore feel that the situation in central Europe is so confused and in such a state of flux that to attempt to formalise it now in a treaty is premature. Bismarck once wrote that the clause Rebus sic stantibus (things being as they are) is implicit in every treaty. We know from the experience of Versailles how impossible it is through a mere treaty to secure the guarantees that may be written into it. History is sometimes a better guarantee of preserving an existing situation than formal documents.

Anything can happen in the present circumstances. The process that has begun is by no means over. Revolutionary euphoria in Russia could end, as it has done elsewhere, in Bonapartist adventure. We are only at the beginning of a very long process and we should not try to freeze it too soon in documents. Anyway, some subjects are immune to freezing and it is best to leave them liquid. We have managed very well so far by diplomacy of detail on the basis of a provisional settlement which has lasted longer than anyone could have expected in 1945. For my part I would prefer to rely on continuing vigilance rather than to attempt at this particular moment to secure a final settlement at a time when the whole of eastern and central Europe is in convulsion and also when two of the major powers who will have to be party to the treaty are themselves in convulsion.

3.32 p.m.

Lord Bonham-Carter

My Lords, I wish to join with the noble Lord, Lord Dacre, in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, for giving us the opportunity to discuss this extremely important and topical subject today. It reflects on the flexibility of our procedures that when a man of the eminence of the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, introduces a topic of this importance and when 20 of your Lordships wish to speak to that topic it is impossible to extend the time. The only device for dealing with the situation is to limit each speaker to five minutes apiece.

I propose to be as brief as possible. I wish to put three propositions to your Lordships, all of which, broadly speaking, appear to be self-evident. The first is that German reunification is on the agenda whatever the Prime Minister may or may not say. It is on the agenda because of history and because of the will of the German people which was shown in a demonstration in Leipzig attended by over 100,000 people a couple of days ago. The proposition is also on the agenda because of what Chancellor Kohl has said. Hence it is on the agenda of your Lordships' House this afternoon.

We may not welcome that because different people take different views of the matter. Writers as distinguished as President Havel and Gunther Grass take absolutely opposite views. I wholly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, that this is a matter for the people of the two republics and there is no good reason that I can see why they, uniquely in Europe, should be deprived of the right of self-determination. As allies in NATO, as colleagues in the EC and as one of the nations that will sign the peace treaty we have the right and the duty to talk with the two German republics about how and on what terms that reunification takes place both as regards the frontiers and the timing.

But even if all our conditions are met I have a second proposition with which I believe the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, would agree. A reunified Germany will cause anxieties in both the East and the West. It is in this respect that the anxieties and the interests of France and the United Kingdom are identical. The fear is of the political and economic domination of Germany. The nightmare is of a Germany which is a shifting cargo in the centre of Europe and which is a permanent source and cause of instability. That nightmare and those fears were the source of the European idea. The cargo had to be fixed firmly in western Europe, the economic power balanced by that of the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Benelux.

My third proposition is that that idea is now more than ever true and that the more united and politically intergrated the EC becomes, the better it will be able to offer a proper framework for the political reunion of the German people. For the countries of Eastern Europe to escape from the hug of the bear and to fall into the lap of German economic and political domination would indeed be an ironical fate. Their fears need to be assuaged not only by a renunciation of any change in the eastern frontiers of Germany but also by other means.

In response to the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Dacre, concerning the adequacy of the renunciation of frontiers, it may well be the case that to renounce frontiers will not solve all the problems, but not to renounce them will create problems. I believe that a politically and economically integrated EC should be able to accommodate those who wish to be associated with it and in due course perhaps they may be able to join that organisation.

In the face of increasing instability in the USSR and of political incoherence in Eastern Europe it seems more than ever important that the United Kingdom plays its full part in the EC. It is necessary to have an element of stability, of growing economic and political influence at the exciting and unpredictable time in which we live. It is sad and I hope that we will abandon the position in which we have found ourselves, isolated on the EMS, monetary union, the central bank, the European social charter and the European investment bank. That isolated position is not conducive to playing a full part in the changes which will occur.

3.37 p.m.

Lord Carver

My Lords, the House must be extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan of Cardiff, for raising this issue. I find myself in almost total agreement with all that he said.

There is one important point that tends to be lost sight of when this subject is discussed. It is that the situation that has prevailed in the centre of Europe for over 40 years was brought about by disagreement between, on the one hand, the Soviet Union and, on the other, ourselves, the Americans and the French about the future of Germany. It is because the negotiations about that broke down in 1947 and have never been resumed that the four powers are still in Berlin. It is because the Western three feared that the Soviet Union intended to impose its solution on Germany by force that the North Atlantic Alliance was founded and its military organisation, NATO, established. The Soviet Union's reaction to that was to form the Warsaw Pact.

If the four powers now agree about the future of Germany and both Germanys are in agreement with them, whether that agreement is for one Germany or two, an entirely new political situation would be created. There would no longer be a justification for a four-power presence in Berlin and the existence of two opposing military alliances glaring at each other across the inner-German border would be inappropriate whether that border were abolished or turned into a recognised international frontier. Neither would it be appropriate for those two alliances to continue to station large bodies of foreign troops on German soil whether that soil were divided into two or not.

As the noble Lord has said, there will undoubtedly be a need for a security organisation. If there are two Germanys they will each need some guarantee of security in their mutual relations. If there is one Germany her neighbours on all sides will certainly need some -method of ensuring that a united Germany could not threaten their security. The countries of Eastern Europe will need assurance of security also against any threat from the Soviet Union; and they will also need some form of security to guarantee their frontiers and to counter the potential threat posed by the existence of other nationalities within them. There are many examples of that in Central and Eastern Europe, as we are being reminded every day, and we must be sure that they do not lead to the kind of instability which was the basic cause of both the First and the Second World Wars.

All this is on the assumption that Europe is going to evolve peacefully into a collection of democratic states which will then live peacefully together, however much they may compete in the economic field. It would be surprising if that happened smoothly and without setbacks. Anyone who based his assumptions about what the result of the French Revolution, 200 years ago, would be on an extrapolation from its first six months would have been very much mistaken. It would therefore be folly to do anything to undermine NATO and the stability the alliance provides until there is some other security organisation which can take its place if political events move in such a way that that becomes appropriate.

But while keeping tight hold of nurse, as nanny of course advises us, we must begin to think about what should take the place of NATO and the Warsaw Pact in that eventuality. We must start discussing its possible framework and a possible programme of how, step by step, we might move from the present situation to a radically different one. Whatever form that might take, whether or not it included the stationing of foreign forces on German or on anybody else's soil, I am sure that both superpowers should participate in any such security system. The implications for our own armed forces would be profound; and it would be folly to initiate major changes in them until we can see the future more clearly.

In what forum should such a new security system be developed? Professor Sir Michael Howard has suggested that we shall need something like the Congress of Vienna which followed the Napoleonic wars. I believe that we have an organisation, however weak and fragile it may be, which would be appropriate, and that is the CSCE —the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe —which started off at Helsinki in 1975. It needs strengthening and it needs leadership. Whatever solution is agreed to the future of Germany, we need the combination of imaginary vision and down to earth realism which Ernest Bevin showed in December 1947, when he took the initiative which led to the North Atlantic Alliance and has given us 42 years of peace in Europe.

3.43 p.m.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, I lived in Germany in the last days of the Weimar Republic when I was an active member of the Social Democratic youth movement. I was in Vienna on the day of the Anschluss. I was in Prague when the Russian tanks came into that city. Noble Lords will therefore understand my elation and joy at the turn of events in the past few months. We are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, not only for his introduction of this subject today but for his excellent article in The Times on the subject, from which I quote: There must be no foot dragging by Western powers to oppose reunification if it becomes clear that both parts of Germany want it David Owen as leader of the SDP has written similarly in the House Magazine and in the Sunday Times. He said: For the West to oppose reunification is to, in effect, pass a no confidence vote in West German democracy". I do not subscribe to the view expressed by Gunter Grass in The Times, speaking to the SPD conference, when he said that East and West must stay apart. I prefer the statesmanship of Chancellor Kohl and his 10-point approach to what was said by Gunter Grass. I hope that the view of Gunter Grass will not become the official policy of the SPD of which he is a member.

Noble Lords will have witnessed the demonstrations in Leipzig by people who were not only demanding democracy and freedom but who were also carrying the banners and flags of West Germany. Those people were emphasising their desire for unification not on nationalist grounds but on the ground that unification with West Germany would guarantee their democratic freedom. They are rather suspicious of the transitional government which is operating at present in East Germany.

There are a variety of political reasons but probably the strongest reasons for integration are to be found in the economic field. The noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, said in his article that, technology will be more important than territory". If there is one thing the West Germans can contribute to the Eastern bloc it is their technology. They can break through the bureaucratic system, the lack of investment and the wasteful use of manpower which is a feature of the East Germany economy and supply the dynamism, the inventiveness and the investment capacity of West Germany. To achieve that there will need to be restructuring of the entire East German economy including the convertability of the East German currency. In this situation there are strong arguments for unification. I appreciate that Russia and Poland are nervous of these developments, but a powerful, dynamic economy in Europe can also help to contribute to solving some of the problems besetting Mr. Gorbachev in his broken-down economy in the Soviet Union. It could help him rather than threaten him.

I wish to make only two final points in connection with the debate. One was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter. All these momentous changes are taking place in Europe. The map is being redrawn and new political alliances are emerging. Is it not rather a pity that Britain takes a more isolationist attitude than most towards the EC? Our influence and authority in that organisation could contribute to a statesmanlike solution of the problems we are discussing.

Secondly, I believe that in many quarters, particularly among the military, the scale of the changes that have taken place has not been grasped. It has not been realised that the cold war no longer exists. The fact that this country is committed over the next three years to spending an extra £2 billion per annum on armaments indicates that those to whom I referred have not taken on board the new opportunities for positive approaches to disarmament which should be a feature of our policy.

3.47 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, the question facing us is not whether German unification will happen, but when and how. The political and economic pressures for unification within East and West Germany seem likely to grow rather than diminish and to make the process inevitable. The two Germanys, not Britain or any other power, will have the decisive influence on the pace of change and the extent to which it is staged through loose confederation to tight federation and into complete unification. What Britain and the rest of Europe must avoid is taking any actions which make the process more difficult and disruptive. Instead, with the United States and the Soviet Union, they must ease the process so that it can take place as painlessly as possible. Above all, the Western powers will need to create the conditions which minimise fears in the Soviet Union and other eastern European countries, notably Poland, that a reunited Germany will pose a military threat.

In western Europe there are fears not so much about the military threat a united Germany might pose but about its economic dominance. The coming together of the two Germany's will certainly create a very powerful economic entity in the centre of Europe. However, we must not forget that West Germany already has the largest population in western Europe and is already by far the most successful economy. The Federal Republic's share of EC economic output in GDP terms is already as high as 24 per cent. Predicting by how much that figure would increase is difficult but initially at least it is unlikely to add more than 2 per cent. or 3 per cent. to its share of the Community's output if unification takes place.

Britain and the other countries of the EC need in any case to face up to the issues raised by the strength of the West German economy. Whether, for example we are concerned about trade imbalances between the Federal Republic and other members of the Community or about the dominance of the Bundesbank in the formation of the monetary policy, we shall need to find collective solutions.

German unification will not change the nature of these economic issues. However, it may add greater import to them. Unlike the appalling short-termism that dominates the economic thinking of the British Government, the West Germans have already outlined an approach on long-term investment to rebuilding the East German economy with great attention to its infrastructure. Rather than using East German factories as suppliers for the more advanced and sophisticated West German industry, the intention is to bring East German industry to the level of that of West Germany, with similar levels of research and development and an equally skilled workforce. The willingness to invest will of course pay off in the long term just as the failure to do so in the UK is already costing us so dear.

Whether we are able to learn from the FRG's approach to economic development in the East, it is vital that there should be no divergence between European integration and Germany unity. Whether we look forward to reaching full economic union rapidly or whether we favour a more cautious and evolutionary approach, it is vital that Germany —a Germany in whatever form the combining of East and West may take—should be a central player in the building of a community of economic interests in Europe. It would be disastrous if the West European powers, by resisting the coming together of the two Germanys, were to drive Germany into a new isolationist position.

I turn now to security matters. We must surely aim for a major reduction in weapons and in military personnel in both East and West Germany. The Soviet Union now seems likely to remove a substantial part of its army from the GDR. Should there not, therefore, be rapid agreement between Britain, France and the USA, with their NATO partners, to remove the remaining station forces from the Federal Republic? Some have suggested that the Warsaw Pact can crumble without change to NATO. That view hardly seems realistic. Moreover, the scenario creates serious problems for the Soviet Union, as would any suggestion that the GDR could leave the Warsaw Pact yet the FRG remain in NATO.

The most important goal of all for the West in these matters is to ensure that Mr. Gorbachev's domestic difficulties are not increased by new external problems. Russian fears about Germany are long-standing and deep-seated. They could be exploited within the Soviet Union by those forces which wish to discredit Mr. Gorbachev. All that suggests that the two Germanys will have to begin to cut their armies and that the Western powers may have to advance the timetable for discussions about the formation of a new system of European security, whether in the CSCE or elsewhere. It is to be hoped that Mrs. Thatcher will not play her usual foot-dragging role.

As my noble friend Lord Callaghan of Cardiff said, reassurance must be provided by the German Government that there is no intention to push for a return to the 1937 frontiers in the East. The Oder-Neisse line must be reaffirmed as the frontier between Germany and Poland. I hope that the UK Government will put pressure on Chancellor Kohl to make a clear statement on the matter in the near future.

A divided Germany was bequeathed to us by the old Europe. The first steps in building the new Europe have been taken on the streets of Gdansk, of Prague, of Dresden and of Leipzig. We now need the imagination to take the next steps towards a hopeful new era in Europe which must include the coming together of the German people.

3.55 p.m.

Lord Thomas of Swynnerton

My Lords, I am convinced that our first reaction to the prospects of German reunification made possible by the collapse of communism in Eastern Germany and the opening of the Berlin Wall should be one of rejoicing and celebration. Of course it is true that not all East Germans may wish to have renunification upon any terms. It is also true, as has been pointed out, that there will be many legal difficulties which will have to be resolved.

The unification of two states, even if they are in a single nation, is obviously much more difficult to achieve if they are democratic states (as we must assume them both to be by the critical time) than if it is a question of conquest. Of course there will be economic difficulties which will stretch over a period of many years. Moreover, the institutions of the past 40 years which have served us well, such as NATO, will have to adapt to new circumstances. I am sure that that will have to happen in any event if it turns out to be true, as the United States Secretary of State for Defence has said, that the Soviet threat has almost evaporated. The question of the Eastern frontier will also have to be investigated, as the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, pointed out to us very appropriately.

Nevertheless, our first reaction should surely be one of great satisfaction that a major aim of the cold war, which indeed was the unification of Germany in freedom, is now possible. Listening to some people speaking about the prospect of German unification, it seems as if it had been the aim of World War II to achieve a divided Germany. Of course that was contemplated, as some noble Lords in this House will remember. However, that idea was rejected, as was the idea of achieving a pastoral Germany by the so-called Morgenthau Plan. But the policy was the contrary.

The desires of the Western allies were that Germany would after the war be reunited in freedom. Moreover, what happened to prevent this immediately after the war was the fact that German communists—not by any means all East German communists, many being West German communists, and others simply flew in from Moscow along with, it is fair to say, German communists who were released from concentration camps —imposed upon the Eastern zone of Germany, as it then was, the Soviet puppet state which basically East Germany, despite its activities in Angola and other parts of the world, has always remained until last year.

To those who nevertheless feel a real sense of anxiety about the prospects of German reunification I should like to point out two or three considerations. First, it is worth while recording that a Germany of 1990, even if reunited, will still only be a country of approximately three-quarters of the size of the Germany of 1938 and only two-thirds the size of the Germany of 1913. It is also true that the German birth rate on both sides of the dividing line between the two Germanys has been falling and is still falling. Therefore any anxiety about lebensraum, or restlessness about room to live, should surely not be a factor for the future. Secondly, I do not understand why we in Britain, with our 58 million, should be especially worried about a country which has increased in size to, say, 80 million. After all, when our population was half the size of France, as it was in the 18th century, we did not feel any particular anxiety on that score; nor, in my experience, do the Spanish, with their 40 million, feel any anxiety about us today with our 58 million.

It is also fair to say that the rational mood which exists in Germany at present, as all current visitors to Germany know, is one which is likely to have absorbed the cost of the two colossal defeats that united Germany experienced in the past. Therefore, extravagant diplomacy of the future is improbable, although we must expect, I suppose, the reassertion of some kind of positive German diplomacy in the future once the generation born after 1945 comes to power.

If all those things are not satisfying to those who fear a united Germany, I think it is fair to say that the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, and other speakers, including the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, did well to point out that the great chance at present is that a united Germany can be fitted successfully into a united Europe so ensuring therefore that the Germans are not only Europeans in the future but that they are also the Germans of Goethe rather than of Hitler.

4 p.m.

Lord Moore of Wolvercote

My Lords, like other noble Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, for having initiated this debate with such distinction and wisdom. I venture to speak in the debate not just because the reunification of Germany is the most important issue facing us in Europe, but because I was present when the victorious Russian armies began the process which led to the division of Germany into two parts; for, in January 1945, in a prisoner of war camp in Silesia, we watched with fascination and excitement the advance of the Russian armies, accurately recorded on our home-made maps with the help of the BBC and our secret wireless receiver.

The Russians came within 25 kilometres of our camp. The Yaks were flying overhead and we thought that we were going to be freed. Then suddenly at two in the morning the Germans marched us out of camp and over to the other side of Germany.

But even in those dramatic days one had to look ahead and wonder how the countries we had gone to war to liberate—Poland and Czechoslovakia —would be able to realise their freedom. We used to discuss that endlessly with our RAF Polish and Czech friends who were prisoners with us. Little did we think that the Russian armies, whose progress we were cheering every day, would keep them in subjection for a further 44 years.

Now at last Poland and Czechoslovakia are becoming free, and Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria with them. They will have to find their own ways of fashioning and operating democracy; but ultimately their future as independent countries will depend on a modus vivendi being found between the two great powers on either side—the Soviet Union and a unified Germany; for Germany surely will become united.

Just before Christmas I was at a conference on Eastern Europe at Cumberland Lodge, which was attended by some 30 post graduate students from all over Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, West and East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. I was fascinated to find among them a tacit assumption that Germany would be reunited.

The process of reunification will have to be conducted with great skill and diplomacy if it is to be achieved peacefully. The gut feeling in both Germanys is already assuming reunification; but the Soviet Union is wary. It has reason to remember the power of Germany and the devastation caused to its country. Britain, the United States and France, apart from their international treaty obligations, have a responsibility to play as constructive and helpful a role as possible. The countries of central Europe in between can only hope that they will be allowed to work out their own destinies without foreign intervention.

In many ways, as noble Lords have said, the most difficult problems will be presented by the future of NATO and the Warsaw Pact. None of the major powers will be prepared lightly to lower its defensive shield, and it will be vital for the West not to throw away the security which NATO has given it for so long.

Not just the reunification of Germany, but all those challenges will call for much wisdom and patience. No one at this stage can say whether Europe will be able to solve the many problems involved. Perhaps however, ironically, the greatest hope for the future lies in the fact that the nuclear bomb makes a major conflict unthinkable, and for the first time in its history Europe will have to work out its salvation without recourse to war.

4.4 p.m.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, I spent the Christmas Recess in Austria, which is one of the best places to listen to what is happening in Eastern Europe today. Day by day there were Czechs, Hungarians, Romanians and Germans coming to Vienna. The Austrian Socialist Party has been in active touch with the opposition movements in all Eastern European countries, not just for the past few days or weeks but for many years, and has given them active and valuable support.

I found one irritation in Austria, at times bordering upon anger, which was occasioned by the boasts of certain quarters in the West that it was they who had effected the revolutions in Eastern Europe. It was not. It was the people of Romania, Czechoslovakia, Eastern Germany and Hungary. It was the people. It was the people's revolution.

It would be tragic if we in the West were to allow ourselves to be alienated from the new democratic forces in the East because of the false claim that socialism in Eastern Europe has been defeated. That is not what is seen in Eastern Europe. Stalinism has been defeated, and Stalinism has been defeated by the people of the Eastern European countries. It is not forgotten in Austria or Eastern Europe that in 1931 it was the Stalinists and the Nazis who crushed the centre, mainly the Social Democratic Party.

I found a fear in Austria that there will be a violent backlash to the overthrow of Stalinism; that Eastern European countries will go wildly to the right; and that fear is an echo from the history of the relationships between the authoritarians of the Right and the authoritarians of Stalin, the authoritarianism which is a natural alliance. It is feared that it may recur.

Those who have overthrown the Stalinists —we democratic Socialists have been fighting the Stalinists for 50 years —have no intention of adopting the casino-type economies of the West. They have found that, although they have been crushed politically, there are certain social and economic values which are worth preserving. In Eastern Germany they are trying to work out a new synthesis between the democratic economy of democratic Socialism and the democratic political system which is still to be invented. It would be a tragedy if we were to interfere in that process.

The future depends upon us. It depends upon the libertarian democrats in this country. It does not depend upon the Conservative Council for Eastern Europe now meeting in Prague. It is not our task to sell the private enterprise economy to the East. They have to develop their own economic and political systems. We have to help them to develop them, to root them deeply and to build them, not just against Stalinism but against all forms of authoritarianism.

4.9 p.m.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, on his choice of subject for debate, perhaps I may also congratulate him on his unquenchable optimism. I find the situation far less cheerful than do some noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, mentioned 1789, a year which was a prelude to 25 of the worst years of war that Europe had hitherto known. More relevantly and more disquietingly, he mentioned what happened in 1848. The old regimes which were challenged by the revolution of the intellectuals, as the late Sir Lewis Namier called it, got back into the saddle in most countries. Where they did not —in France —there was another spell of Bonapartism.

We are only at the beginning of these movements in Eastern Europe. People who talk as though a revolution had already taken place seem to me to overlook some of the arguments. I do not accept the presentation of them by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby. However, people overlook some of the arguments for believing that there is a long way to go before East Germany itself is ready for unification with a West Germany whose economy —one can call it a casino economy or an economy which puts things in the shops —is different from its own.

We do not know to what extent we are witnessing a regime in East Germany —and the same is true, to a limited extent, in most of the other East European countries —which is fighting to maintain, under new labels, fundamentally the same principle of single party rule and the command economy which has brought those countries to their present pass and has created the popular uprisings to which the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, referred. Is this simply an effort towards a rearguard action by what I think we can still call the ancien régime, to which, for instance, Herr Modrow belonged? Or do they represent a genuine wish on the part of these countries to have a social and economic system which would be so different not only from that of West Germany but of the EC countries that the talk of a single European system in the economic sense becomes somewhat unreal? I believe that that is one worry.

We ought to wait and see. East Germany, after all, is a totally artificial creation which corresponds to nothing except the line of demarcation between the armies. I entirely agree, as I think all noble Lords do, that, if all sections of the German people as a whole wish to form part of a confederation, federation or a single state, it would be wrong and incompatible with our own beliefs to stand in their way, whatever precautions their neighbours —particularly their eastern neighbours —might wish to take. However, we do not know that we have reached that stage yet.

Nor am I as confident as some people about the future of Germany's eastern frontiers. I think it is highly improbable —and here I agree with my noble friend Lord Thomas —that there might be a recrudescence of a German military threat. Rather, the thought of a possible reorganisation of Eastern Europe under German leadership, which I think is almost inevitable, will raise anxieties because these are also artificial countries. What is present-day Poland? It consists largely of lands from which the Red Army chased the German inhabitants so that the Poles would in future depend upon Soviet protection. Will the Germans for ever refer to the great philosopher Kant, the author of a project for universal peace, as being a professor in Kaliningrad?

These are serious problems which are bound to arise. Nations do not forget their history. We only have to look across the Irish Sea to be aware of that. We are faced with the most disquieting and dangerous situation that Europe has known for some years. It will take all the resources of statesmanship in all our countries to make sure that the changes which I believe are only just beginning are in the end changes to everyone's benefit.

4.14 p.m.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, no one can deny that if the DDR becomes genuinely democratic and changes over to a free market system, it will be able to join up with the Federal Republic. But these are big "ifs" and in any case the process, if it takes place, will take some time. Nor is reunification invevitable. Here I venture to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, and other noble Lords. It may happen but it is not inevitable.

Is it also desirable? Many argue that it is because they say that it is obvious that the bulk of the German people want it and that if it comes about the reunified Germany will also be democratic and continue happily as a member also of the European Economic Community. However, on the other hand, it is certain that a reunified Germany, however democratic, would by the force of events and whatever the Federal Republic may say now raise the question of the eastern frontiers.

It is also quite on the cards that a larger and potentially nationalistic Germany would be an impossible member of the Community as at present organised. It is finally likely, I am afraid, that the Americans would withdraw their troops, thus ending the NATO alliance. Such are the obvious possible disadvantages and it is hard to deny that they are real.

Be that as it may, the idea that the Federal Republic should have increasingly good relations with an eastern German state conducted on rather different lines is not a stupid or reactionary idea. East Germany has always had a rather different Weltanschauung from the more liberal and catholic West. There is already a special relationship between the two countries and there is no reason why this should not be further developed. After all, the Federal Republic has perfectly good relations with another contiguous and independent German state, namely Austria.

What is important is that if we have any doubts about German reunification —and it is evident that whatever their governments may say in public, most French, Poles, Russians, Danes, Dutch, Belgians and, I would myself add, British, have such doubts —we should in no way suggest that it is the result of simple anti-German prejudice.

For centuries our country has resisted any attempt by any other country to dominate the continent or to be in a position to be able to do so. We were right in so doing. The only trouble was that when the necessary wars for that purpose were won, the ensuing settlement was not permanent. The Treaty of Vienna, the balance of power, the Versailles Settlement, including the League of Nations, all collapsed owing to competing nationalistic emotions. Appalling wars ensued. After the last holocaust we thought we had found a solution: the four major European powers would come together in a new form of union which would be so organised as to make it impossible for any of them to pursue a totally independent policy.

The essential basis for such an organisation was, and is, an agreed, though limited, measure of supranationality and basic equality among its four major members. If one of them should ever become nearly twice as important as the others, it is likely, I am afraid, that the Community would collapse. If one of them —and we know which one—should decline to accept an increasing degree of supranationality, there would be much the same result. The nation state would emerge victorious and nationalism would take its inevitable course. I suggest that it is therefore from this angle that we ought to consider the immense problem posed by the possibility of a single German state or even some form of confederation.

But whatever the result, or suspected result, we for our part should press on with enthusiasm and not in a reluctant way for the accomplishment of the original European idea, which is co-operation and not contest among the major European powers and adequate democratic machinery for assuring that end. That would be the best and perhaps the only way to make sure that Germany remains in the West and pursues a common Community policy in the face of what appears to be the end of Soviet influence in Eastern Europe and possibly the break-up of the Soviet Union itself.

4.20 p.m.

Lord Greenhill of Harrow

My Lords, fears of unification, privately or publicly expressed, as the French among others have already found out, produce a reaction in Germany which is the reverse of what is hoped for. My first point is that no one should be so foolish as to believe that a unified Germany can be neutralised, nor can it be anchored —that is the word used by journalists —to the Community against its will. But the movement towards unification is, I believe we all agree, irreversible. The split of the country was never intended but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, said, the situation is rather like the entry of the British into the ERM. It is not a question of whether, but when. However, the pace and form of unification have yet to be discerned.

Secondly, however unification comes about, as the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan said, it must be the result of an indisputably democratic process. If the East German election promised for May takes place, it must be undeniably free and fair. It is reasonable to ask whether a plebiscite rather than an election is the right way to proceed. To an outsider it seems to me that the opposition in East Germany has neither the resources nor the organisation to fight a tough election and the Communists have a tradition of manipulating results. If an election does nevertheless take place, the result may well be a compromise like the situation of the present Polish Government. But whatever happens in May and December of this year in the East German election and the West German election, the likelihood is that the beginning of 1991 will be a critical time. The move towards unification will be assured but the pace of it will not be clear. However, it will be at the centre of European affairs. At that stage, that is the beginning of 1991, would it not be prudent to set aside existing Allied rights and seek a new and novel treaty? I do not mean a peace treaty in the traditional sense, such as the peace treaty that ended World War 2, and not a treaty between victors and vanquished, but a treaty involving at its centre the war-time Allies and a Germany poised for reunification. I should like to think of that as a treaty for the pacification of Europe.

The treaty should also include as many other European participants as possible. It should seek to be specific on potentially disputed frontiers, including of course the Polish/German frontier. As the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, suggested, it would draw heavily upon the Helsinki Final Act. It would remove the outdated Allied rights in Germany. Associated with the main treaty or integrated in it would be disarmament agreements including troop withdrawals and a definition of a new relationship between NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries. That would be essential. Whether the two pacts should continue or be merged in some way is a question that is far too early to decide. However, in my view, preliminary consultations between those concerned in such a treaty should begin in 1991. That need not, I suggest, displace or distract from the intergovernmental conference of the Community members being planned during this current year. However, it would be appropriate for that conference to take this problem into consideration. Ultimately a new treaty of the kind I suggest would be of greater significance than the decisions of the Community.

Is it too much to ask to work for a solution like this? It would require a diplomatic effort over many months. However, we appear to have a critical chance now to make plans for what could be a decisive move towards the pacification of the European continent.

4.25 p.m.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, I wish to contribute three short points to the important debate which my noble friend Lord Callaghan has brought before the House this afternoon. My first point concerns our reaction to what has happened in East Germany and elsewhere. Secondly, I wish to mention the need for a vision of the shape that a restructured Europe might take. Thirdly, I wish to mention the role this country should play to bring that vision into effect.

On the first point, what else can one say other than that we rejoice that millions of our fellow Europeans now have the chance to enjoy the same kind of freedom that we take for granted. At the same time, we recognise that for the present there is no direct action that Britain can or should take. But while recognising that we cannot interfere, we should accept that we can help. First, we can help from an economic viewpoint. If these countries are to become trading and political partners of the West, the West has a self-interested obligation to take active steps to assist in their economic regeneration.

A second way we can assist is by helping to formulate a vision of what kind of European framework is needed to deal with the fundamental changes which have taken place so rapidly. We have to accept that Germany is and has been central to Europe, both geographically and economically. If one looks back as far as the early 1970s, one recollects that the economic prominence of Germany became evident then and that France needed Britain as a counterbalance to Germany's emerging power. That brought about the first enlargement of the European Community. Now we have two Germanys which may or may not wish to become reunited, but whose two peoples certainly wish to co-exist within the same system. So, once again, a wider European Community is needed to contain and provide balance either for one Germany or a loose confederation of two.

As we know so well, there are many candidates to make up this larger Community. Once again the European Community can be used as a catalyst. In 1973 the enlargement of the European Community enabled Britain and Ireland to use its framework as a catalyst to deal with their common problem in Northern Ireland. I believe that the intervening years have proved that to be the case. Now we could use an even wider framework for another purpose; namely, to assist in resolving the German question.

What is Britain's role in this matter? Here, I am convinced that we must look towards Europe in a true sense. We must genuinely think of ourselves as European instead of sometimes continuing to regard the Continent with some suspicion. Britain has always had a special relationship with the United States. However, important as our relations with America are, they should not cloud our vision of Europe. Our role now must be to co-operate fully with our neighbours to restructure Europe. It sometimes appears as if 1945 remains too important a date in our Government's calendar. However, the majority of Britons were not even born in 1945. I believe that the process of restructuring Europe must be pragmatic. However, I equally believe that in order to avoid a dangerous vacuum there must also be a constant will to move forward. There must be a dynamic sense involved here.

A more positive role for the Community was never more essential than concerning its response to the dramatic developments in Eastern Europe. There has never been a greater need for Her Majesty's Government to commit themselves unequivocally to working with their partners in this regard. There is little doubt that in recent years Britain has on many occasions been seen as an isolated and sometimes semi-detached member of the Community. If this continues to be seen to be so, I very much fear that this country may be seen as entirely irrelevant to the historic changes which lie ahead of us in Europe.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Pym

My Lords, the revolutions in Europe in 1989 show very clearly that the consequences of the two great wars of this century have far from played themselves out. The fact that those revolutions have happened much earlier than expected is due to Mr. Gorbachev. Our immediate reaction is naturally one of relief and joy, but we shall be making a big mistake if we do not comprehend the scale of the problems that must now be faced.

The landscape is moving as we look at it, and we must ensure that when it stabilises again it does so in a mould that is genuinely beneficial to the millions of individuals affected, and that it is based on democratic principles and freedom.

The first result of the revolutions to attract attention is the possible unification of Germany. There are many dimensions to that. From the point of view of the German people, it would surely be extraordinary if they did not want to be united. With elections in both West and East Germany this year, we shall hear a great deal about that from all sides of the political spectrum. There will be widely differing opinions, but we must work on the assumption that unification will happen. The process has begun already, as the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, has said.

That means that the settlement —if one can call it that —reached at the end of the Second World War must be reopened, as has already been said, with the wartime allies agreeing a basis of discussion with the two Germanys so that a new settlement can be reached. But many other countries are affected too, as are millions of people, many of whose interests conflict. The surrounding circumstances are also wholly different, so the process will be controversial and complicated. The issues raised are fundamental —I will not list them because there is not time —and millions of individuals are going to feel very strongly about them, so one of the first major tasks of diplomacy will be to tackle them adequately and in the timescale that may be required.

The second dimension of the unification question is one that makes unification highly desirable, if not a necessity. That is the economic state of Eastern Europe, as well as that of the Soviet Union. The economies of all countries in Eastern Europe are in a ghastly state. The unhappy truth is that, with the best will in the world, they cannot be rectified and modernised quickly. The greatest challenge facing the whole of the West is to understand the scale of the economic need of Eastern Europe and to put in place as a minimum an updated equivalent of the Marshall Plan. We must make the maximum possible provision for their needs. That is not only an economic but political necessity, because the great hardship that those countries will face will cause some of them to question whether they were not better off under the old regime. In that situation I believe that the process of unifying the two Germanys will of itself facilitate the transition of the East German economy and make that process quicker than it could otherwise be.

Because of its geographical position and economic strength as well as the skill of its people, West Germany is a crucially important source of economic support for all Eastern Europe. This concerns not only Germany: it is essential for all Western countries immediately to organise an investment programme for Eastern Europe involving private industry and commerce as well as governments. Japan is already playing a prominent part, and so will the United States, without doubt; but every other country has a responsibility.

That leads to the third dimension: the changing balances within Europe. Already the balance in Eastern Europe and in Europe as a whole has changed dramatically. In Western Europe the balance remains stable, although unification will call that into question. The way in which all this settles down in the end matters a great deal because of the changing balance in the world as a whole. The world balance is moving steadily to the Pacific Rim, and, if Europe is to have the influence and clout in the next century which it will need and ought to have, it is essential that it acts in a concerted and cohesive way.

That is why the development of the European Community is so vital. It is at a turning point now following the revolutions of 1989. No longer is it concerned only with its own development; it is the catalyst that can enable Europe as a whole to recover from the wounds of Yalta.

So far as the balance in the West is concerned, it is entirely within the power of Britain, France and Italy together to be more than an adequate counterweight to a unified Germany, if that comes about. It was not possible for that to be the case earlier in the century, but it is possible now.

We are moving into a new and different world. It is perfectly true that we shall see old rivalries and hatreds re-emerging. We are seeing that already. The next few years are going to be very difficult. We shall see many conflicts and perhaps bloodshed, but we must combine an ever-present awareness of the lessons of the past with new thinking and imagination about the future, which in many respects will be very different from anything known before.

4.35 p.m.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, in opening the debate, the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, spoke of the absurdity of a frontier between two halves of a German confederal state which would have short-range nuclear weapons on either side of it. That would indeed be a great absurdity. Perhaps we should also remember the project for a Lance replacement system, of longer range and greater explosive power. Would the Government not be well advised, before entering into the extremely difficult period of constructing a new Europe which is beginning now, to cut loose that ball and chain from its foot in its relations with West Germany? No politician in NATO wants that except the Prime Minister, so I am glad that it has not been mentioned today, and I hope that it will not be mentioned from now on.

The problem in the revival of a single Germany is susceptible of solution very largely in legal terms. If we get the treaty structure right there should be little danger of military expansionism. The present two Germanys are equally successor states of the Third Reich. But because of the absence of a peace treaty they have never been able to replace in international law the territorial claims and other revendications of the Third Reich. We all know that they are not going to try and exert them —they never have —but a peace treaty will be required to put an end to those boundaries.

A reunited Germany is going to be a successor state both to the present two Germanys and to the Third Reich. There is a conflict there because the present East Germany has an eastern frontier which is of crucual reality and importance at the moment. But it is in conflict, as has often been pointed out, with the eastern frontier of the Third Reich. I see no way of that being settled satisfactorily without there being a peace treaty at some stage, though not necessarily immediately. I think the noble Lord, Lord Dacre, feared there might be a move for it next week, but I believe there must be one within a year or two, as part of a general movement. Unfortunately, Chancellor Kohl has been a little cloudy when pressed to state his position on the eastern frontier of a reunited Germany. Perhaps we should worry about that; perhaps not. Both East and West Germany are bound by the CSCE Treaty structure as it exists now, which states fairly and squarely that no frontier in Europe shall be changed except with the consent of both parties concerned. That binds West Germany as clearly as it binds East Germany now. To my mind, that is sufficient reason to accept the CSCE as a proper framework for laying out a new Europe in the next five or 10 years. Nowhere else do we find that. It is there and must be built upon for German as well as European reasons.

Having said that, what else should be done? We shall be lucky to get a reunited Germany in to the European Community without convulsions which might rob the European Community of some of its present value. If possible —but it will be extremely difficult and hard work —we should perhaps aim at three concentric circles: a European Community with a reunited Germany in it; EFTA, as now defined, in the closest relations with that; and, as a third circle, whatever Eastern Europe appears. I include Russia in Eastern Europe, because we must face the fact that the days of the Russian Empire are now clearly numbered. In 1914 there were 11 European empires; there is now only one. We shall face an Eastern Europe in which at least the three Baltic states will have come out from under Russian rule, and which will include Russia, which is a European country. Then there remains the problem of Greater Russia. What about Russia-in-Asia, which is part of the Russian SFSR and, presumably, not divisible?

An agenda and a half awaits us. I hope that our Government can play a constructive role in it and that they will get rid of the out-dated impediments which may prevent them from doing so.

4.41 p.m.

Lord Monkswell

My Lords, I too should like to thank my noble friend Lord Callaghan for introducing the debate. I rise to speak because I am probably one of the few Members of the House who was born after the last war. Most noble Lords will have experienced the last war and some will have experienced the Great War. Those experiences will therefore colour their vision of the situation today.

I should like to make the point that people born since the last war have a different vision. We have seen the new tasks with which a much smaller world presents us. Going back into history, we can see the inevitability of the unification of Germany. Given that both Russia and the United States are no longer prepared to use their armies to keep Germany divided —that is the reality of the situation —it is inevitable that the two halves of Germany will unite.

So how do we face that situation? How do we react to it? We can only react positively by working with the people of Germany, with their undoubted talents, to tackle the tasks that face humanity. Perhaps I may point out two of the tasks. The first is to enable all humankind to have a decent standard of living, to eat, to be clothed and to be housed. The other task is to protect our environment. How can we best help the German people to do that?

We must try to allay the fears of those European countries which, from a historical point of view, are justified in being fearful of Germany. The immense economic power of Germany may be a threat to those European countries around Germany. One of the ways in which we can attempt to alleviate those fears—not only the fears of Germany's immediate neighbours, but our fears and those of Russia and other European countries—is to include not only a united Germany in the EC, which is the easiest mechanism, but to include Poland, Hungary, Romania, Czechoslovakia and Austria and, to allay the fears of the Russian people, to include Russia and, almost inevitably thereafter, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. So the task ahead of us is immense if we think in terms of enlarging the European Community to include all those countries, as is essential.

It may be as a result of the enthusiasm of my comparative views and my feeling that we need to do something quickly that I suspect that the time-scale for those changes will be far more rapid than we have envisaged. Apart from the fears of the nation states in Europe and around Germany, we must also consider the fears of people living in Germany. One of the problems that developed with the emergence of the German state over the past 150 years was the concept of its supposed superiority with, as the corollary of that, the concept of members of the human race who were a sub-class of humanity.

We can still see the relics of that philosophy in both East and West Germany. We must do everything we can to ensure that that philosophical point of view is reduced. One of the ways in which we can do that is to consider such matters as the EC social charter. It is interesting that the first draft of the social charter included guest workers, while later drafts did not. I hope that the Government will use the social charter as a means of ensuring positive development within Germany and ensure that guest workers are included. Time prevents me from enlarging on those themes at great length.

4.47 p.m.

The Earl of Selkirk

My Lords, I should like to apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, for not being here when he spoke. I was prevented from being here for reasons which I could not wholly escape.

Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, I venture to speak to noble Lords on quite different ground. As a student in Germany in the mid-1920s I saw the embryology of the Nazi movement. I could not believe my eyes or the speeches that I heard. I believed that the people were going mad, and they were going mad, but I did not realise that adequately at the time.

One must remember four factors. The Germans had been defeated in war. That meant a great deal to a militant body of people such as they were. They had had inflation. The meaning of money simply disappeared in their minds; it became utterly useless. There were 6 million people unemployed. They were a proud race, but were viewed with contempt by practically all other countries. Those factors constituted the splendid background from which Hitler was able to build up his ultimate position.

I did not doubt that the two Germanys would unite. It never occurred to me that that would not happen. It was only a matter of time. Perhaps I take a less pessimistic view today than do other people. We have now got out of the tangle into which two peace treaties put us, first at Versailles and then at Yalta. Both those treaties led the country into a thorough mess. Anyone who observed it closely saw that Europe was in a mess at that time.

We therefore have a great and perhaps unique opportunity which will depend almost entirely on the quality and determination of the people who come to the top. The ambitions of people in Poland, Italy or anywhere are all the same. People are not so different. But their leaders can be different and the people can be drawn in the wrong direction. Can we exert enough influence to keep them going right?

The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said that he hoped that East Germany would not be drawn into the Common Market. I should have thought that that would be an immense opportunity to draw together in a market in which we could compete with one another —not compete politically because I hope that such a common market would not turn into a political arena, which would not work. But it would be of great advantage and help to us all to draw the countries of Europe into competition in trade —into competition for money, if one wants to put it so bluntly. I think that we have a considerable part to play in that.

The Germans wrote their Weimar Constitution in the early 'twenties. It was an astonishing document, with every modern device. But the constitution lasted no time at all because there was not the determination nor the personnel to keep it going. There is now a massive desire for democracy. An alternative phrase for democracy might be the attainment of human ambition. We can help. We have had years of experience of democracy. We have, I think, a little falsely celebrated the 700th anniversary of Parliament. It was perhaps rather gratuitous, but we celebrated it. We have a lot of experience in these matters. We must try to get the countries of Europe to understand the nature and quality of the problems involved.

Yesterday afternoon this House discussed what is called the Henry VIII clause, which most people dislike. People in government rather like it, but that is another matter altogether. However, there are problems in making a democracy work. I believe that we can contribute to help solve those difficulties. We can help and I believe that we will do so. This is a moment of unique opportunity in the whole history of Europe. We may or may not take advantage of it. I am inclined to believe that we will not do so, but the opportunity is there.

4.52 p.m.

Lord Hankey

My Lords, I start by saying that it is a pity that with such experts in this House on every hand we should limit ourselves to speaking for five minutes each on a subject of such enormous importance to this country and to Europe. It is quite ridiculous.

I agree with those noble Lords who said that we must regard the reunification of the two Germanys as inevitable. It may not come as soon as some people expect, but in my view the destruction of the Berlin Wall has raised the whole question to an emotional level which no German politician will be able to resist. I have much the same background as my noble friend who has just spoken, having studied in Germany and attended a German university. I agree with a great deal of what he said. All the same, we live in a time of political avalanches. Avalanches and landslides are horribly dangerous. We have to be very careful about where we are going. We must work out our path.

We do not want a neutral Germany. That would be a dangerous illusion. The Germans are not built to be neutrals. They are altogether too purposeful—in German, zielbewusst. Sooner or later there may be another Russo-German pact, which would be fatal. There have been two in our lifetime. it would certainly be very dangerous for Poland. Moreover, the new European Community without Germany, which is its main industrial powerhouse, would not make all that much sense.

We cannot foresee what will happen in Russia. Therefore for the foreseeable future we should make every possible effort to preserve NATO. Personally I am very impressed with Herr Woerner, the new Secretary General. He is a tremendously impressive person with very good ideas. One of them is that there may be some kind of semi-political approach between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, if indeed the Warsaw Pact continues to exist. We cannot foresee what will happen.

I thought that the idea of my noble friend Lord Callaghan of using the Stockholm CSCE arrangements as a further springboard was intensely interesting and forward-looking. I hope that that idea will be carefully examined. The noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, also produced a most interesting series of ideas about how there might be a new treaty background.

There are colossal uncertainties in Eastern Europe which bring the whole Continent into a state of flux.

It would be dangerous now to miss the opportunity to develop the European Community into something more real, more convincing, more solid, more effective and more potent —something around which the other states of Europe can crystallise. It would be something which the reunited German people, our own people, the French and other peoples could regard as holding out a valuable, cohesive future which offers prosperity as well as a cleaner environment to us all. It would be something that we could all work towards with enthusiasm. The Americans have been pressing it on us for two generations. This is not a new idea.

I have come to the serious conclusion that we ought to work towards a European confederation. I say "confederation" because that means that the component states allocate to the central confederal government only certain powers and retain all the others themselves. I am not at all taken with the centralising ideas of the French. I believe that they would lead to intense frustration and irritation. However, a confederation in which we contributed only certain things to the centre would be possible.

I have every realisation of how difficult that would be. There would have to be a written constitution. I hear noble Lords say, "How very un-British". Of course it would be, but without that the system would never work. There would have to be a proper European Parliament. It would have to be moved from Strasbourg to Brussels. The French have done a wonderful job at Strasbourg but they messed everything up by separating the European Parliament from the EC's administration and committees.

Remembering the OEEC, I think that we need something similar for the states of Eastern Europe so that the help that they receive is conditional upon their combining together to have more free movement of trade and slowly more convertible currencies.

I do not think that I can say more within the time-limits that have been set, but we should try to look forward to something of that nature which can offer a cohesive future for Europe as a whole. Without it, I believe that we may be in danger.

4.58 p.m.

Lord Kagan

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, is right to tell us that unification is a fact and that its formalisation is only a question of time but also that at the end of the day we may see a Napoleonic solution in the Soviet Union. Mr. Gorbachev's stated aim is a common European home. We are now seeing the development of a German-led, German-Russian alliance. That is the only way in which Russia can survive as a European power.

German organisational ability and technology combined with Russian space technology, Russian manpower and Russian resources are absolutely unbeatable. Such development has been planned ever since Bismarck's days. Hitler would have succeeded had he not indulged in his paranoia. He tried rape. West Germany is offering seduction and will succeed.

When East Germany joins West Germany there will be 17 million highly educated specialists, skilled people whose second language for 44 years has been Russian. We shall see an economic blitzkrieg in the East. West Germany is the only nation that can offer mass management and mass understanding of the Russian mind. It will have available 17 million people whose second language at school from seven years on is Russian. The rest of the world could not match that.

Central and Eastern Europe were always dominated culturally and industrially by Germany. In undermining Communism the price to Mr. Gorbachev is cheap because, first, he is a Russian, and, secondly, a communist —if anyone can define Communism. By abandoning Bolshevism or dismantling Communism, he is making himself acceptable to West Germany. We are now seeing a second attempt, a voluntary Ribbentrop-Molotov pact. In other words, the approach has changed from a military to an economic one.

The end result will be a superpower from the Rhine to the Japanese frontiers with the greatest amount of raw material resources, skill, labour and technology. It will be the superpower of Europe. It will not be hostile to the Economic Community. It will for the most part ignore it.

That will be the unified Germany. It restores the pride of the Germans by at last counting in world affairs as they feel they should according to their economic power, dedication and work philosophy. It is being blessed by the USA, which welcomes a strong power at the back of Japan. I believe that we shall see the statues to Stalin restored. He will be honoured like Pasteur because what Pasteur did for medicine Stalin has done for politics. He has made the world immune to Communism.

5.4 p.m.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, we all seem to agree that a new, secure system is necessary to replace the present system, which is crumbling. However, even if we were to start work on it now, the negotiations for the treaties (there will be several of them), the erection of the institutions (there will be several of them) and the arrangements for peace-keeping, perhaps involving military decisions, will take many years. Before then NATO will be faced with very difficult problems in connection with the reunification of Germany about which I should like to speak.

The noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, quite rightly said that the unified Germany for which the Germans will ask will have only one armed force. Naturally that armed force will be deployed on both sides of what is now the frontier between the Warsaw Pact and the NATO forces. What then will be the position of those forces? They have no frontier to defend. They are deployed side by side with units of the same German army. Their position on defence is not only superfluous; it is ridiculous. A reunified Germany cannot co-exist with the continued presence of the forces of the Warsaw Pact and NATO.

Some speakers in the debate have said, "All right, but Germany must stay in NATO". The noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, said that United States troops must stay in Europe. But that is surely subject to many serious objections. First, on the attitude of the Russians, it is a lot to ask of them. They have made it clear that if both sides withdrew from Germany they might consider it but they will bitterly oppose any agreement which suggests that they should withdraw while the Americans stay.

It could be argued that the Russians are in such a weak position today that such a settlement could be imposed on them, unbalanced as it is. That may well be true. But if we are looking for the new system of security dependent on superpower agreement and on East-West co-operation, to suggest that Germany should belong to NATO or that NATO troops should belong in Germany while the Russians go is a sure means of undermining the position and indeed of renewing the cold war.

I have not heard the point mentioned in the debate: it may be an esoteric view. However, I am driven to the view that in the meantime, while we wait for the new security system, there must be a disengagement both of the Warsaw Pact countries and the NATO forces from the unified Germany. I speak for myself on that. It is not a new idea. It was supported by Hugh Gaitskell and the Labour Party 30 years ago.

Five years ago, before we reconciled our policies with the SDP in order to form the Alliance, the idea was well regarded in the Liberal Party. The Liberal Assembly of 1984 resolved unanimously as follows: Concerned at the growing conflict between the demand for self-determination in Eastern Europe and Germany and the Soviet Union's perception of its security interests, Assembly believes that initiatives should be investigated for overcoming this problem, including the mutual and balanced disengagement of Soviet and American forces". I believe that the logic of what has happened since Mr. Gobachev's reforms began leads inevitably in that direction.

The main objections made five years ago to the idea —namely, that the Russians would not accept it; that it would unbalance the military balance —no longer hold good. I hope very much that the idea will be seriously considered in the context of the new security system about which many noble Lords have spoken. There must be many noble Lords who feel as I do, that after over 40 years of trying to strengthen NATO, of confronting Soviet Communism, it is very hard to adjust to what is now an entirely new ball game. That is what we have to do. I hope that we have the courage to do it.

5.8 p.m.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, we are all very grateful to my noble friend Lord Callaghan for initiating this important debate on German reunification and for his thoughtful and stimulating speech. We have had a balanced and informed debate with important contributions from all sides and a full appreciation that the problems that arise from our discussions are difficult and complex.

The history of the last century and more has made them so and Britain has been and remains inextricably involved in the events following the two great wars of this century. From 1945 onwards the cold war made an agreed peace settlement impossible and the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic emerged from that sad failure. They were born out of hostility, suspicion, fear and the sharply contrasting ideologies of the Soviet Union under Stalin on the one hand and the Western world on the other which were later reflected in NATO and the Warsaw Pact.

We remember the bitter arguments about German rearmament and other issues. West Germany joined NATO in 1955 and that led to the creation of the Warsaw Pact. The continuing hostility seemed to be symbolised permanently by the erection of the Berlin Wall in-1961. Since then most of us have lived through 25 years of suspicion and uncertainty in Europe. If we look back we must recognise that, remembering the repression of freedom in Hungary and Czechoslovakia by the Soviet army, NATO has served us well as a bulwark against potential aggression. As far as we can see at present, it must remain so into the future, although I take careful note of the proposals of the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, for a new security system in Europe.

At this point however, it is worth recalling that the British Government expressed a basic view in 1945 after the war in Europe had ended. They said: it is Utopian to think of a West Germany which is not in the long term united with East Germany". That general principle has been held to by successive governments in Britain and its allies ever since.

That view was reaffirmed last month at the European Summit, although, as noble Lords will have noted, with some qualifications. The statement referred to the democratic process and the principles of the Helsinki Final Act. I agree entirely with the comments made by my noble friend Lord Callaghan about the central importance of the CSCE. But it accepts the inevitability of reunification if the people of East and West Germany are determined to achieve it. Is that really the case? Is it inevitable? Looking at it today it seems to be so and we shall be interested to hear the Minister's reaction to that. There are of course other considerations which have been mentioned by my noble friend and other noble Lords but of primary importance is the Soviet viewpoint.

It must be conceded that Mr. Gorbachev is responsible, if not entirely then to a very large extent, for the historic revolution taking place in Eastern Europe. His speeches and his policies and their consequences both in and out of the Soviet Union make that abundantly plain. There has been a remarkable change in attitude and action.

As regards East Germany, while giving his blessing to rapid reform Mr. Gorbachev has also warned against forcing developments there. We must note what he said last month: We firmly declare that we will see to it that no harm comes to the GDR. It is our strategic ally and a member of the Warsaw Pact". He went on to say: Departure from this threatens the destabilisation of Europe". The new East German Prime Minister, Mr. Modrow, has reflected that in his talks with Chancellor Kohl, but he has also talked about further co-operation with West Germany. And so, as the scene unfolds, we hear differing views from differing sources. President Havel of Czechoslovakia —and how warmly we congratulate him and welcome him to his new office —said during his visit to both West and East Germany that Europe had nothing to fear from a united Germany. But he went on to say that: Democratic awareness and democratic structures in Germany are much more important than the question of German unity". The fact remains that there are people throughout Europe who for understandable reasons are uncertain or downright afraid of a united economically powerful Germany of 80 million people. We know that among those who are uneasy about a powerful reunited Germany are the people of the Soviet Union itself. Mr. Shevardnadze made that plain in his speech in Brussels last month.

Therefore, it seems that we in his country should move patiently and realistically and seek peaceful and stable solutions in concert with our partners in the Community. Noble Lords have referred to certain essential elements. First, elections are pending in West and East Germany and in the latter there will be a political vacuum until the elections planned for May. There is little doubt that reunification will be the central theme of both elections in both Germanys.

Secondly, if the Community is to co-operate in a movement towards some form of reunification then it will need to be satisfied that a constitution which is clearly democratic is established in East Germany. Nothing less than that is acceptable. It will not happen tomorrow; it will take time. Thirdly, at this stage it is impossible to predict the kind of unification that will take place. My noble friend and other noble Lords have referred to that. Will it be federation, confederation or some other form of relationship? In its formulation account must be taken of existing national treaties and in this we are vitally concerned, as I am sure the Minister will confirm. Can he say how the Government view the function of the four-power machinery in Berlin in the context of the changing scene? Once again, I stress the importance of the reference made by my noble friend Lord Callaghan to the CSCE, which should have a central role in the development.

I believe that Germany's continuing membership of the European Community is of first importance in terms of European stability and economic wellbeing. That is especially so in the case of East Germany and the neighbouring countries. It is through the Community, assisted by the United States and Japan, that practical democracy in Eastern Europe will best be sustained. I see no other solution.

Finally, the acceptance of the present eastern borders of the GDR, as my noble friend Lord Callaghan has emphasised, is essential to permanent stability. There are other matters which time will not permit me to discuss; for example, the implications of change for the huge Soviet military presence in East Germany and for the disarmament process. Furthermore, stability —which implies peace —can be achieved in East Germany and in Eastern Europe generally only if the Soviet Union accepts and abides by the final settlement and if the West's financial and economic aid is adequate and efficiently spent. The future of world peace depends on that and we urge the Government to play their full part in achieving these essential objectives.

5.17 p.m.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I join with other noble Lords in gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, for giving the House the opportunity of debating this important subject.

We have witnessed dramatic changes in eastern Europe. Even six months ago we had little inkling of what was in store. In October the GDR's communist rulers organised an extravaganza of self-congratulation to mark their 40 years of power. Economically more successful than its communist neighbours, the GDR seemed set to continue on its hard-line course. Perestroika was regarded with deep suspicion —so much so that access to some Soviet publications was restricted or denied. It was widely assumed that when Honecker finally stepped down he would be followed by a leader in the same mould. German unification seemed a virtual impossibility or at least a prospect so remote that there was little point in devoting much time to it.

As we have all seen, the reality was very different. The tyranny of the old regimes in eastern Europe had suppressed but had never eradicated the passionate desire for freedom among their peoples. They were held down by fear. However, once the fear was gone and the people dared to speak out the whole structure collapsed with extraordinary speed. The people who made these revolutions are now striving to rebuild their ravaged countries in a new, truly democratic way.

Another important factor in recent developments has been the way in which events in one East European country have dramatically affected one another. It is being said that Poland's transformation took 10 years, Hungary's 10 months, Bulgaria's and the GDR's 10 weeks and Czechoslovakia's 10 days. In Romania events have moved faster still. The domino theory has worked in reverse. Hungary's willingness, for example, to respond to the desperate human plight of those who were trying to escape the GDR to the West opened the way for thousands to vote with their feet and so exposed the hollow lie which lay at the heart of the GDR's claim to be the people's state. People in Czechoslovakia clearly took heart from the events in the GDR. And so on.

In all these countries the process of reform is now under way. Their people, and the new democratic leaderships which many will elect over the next few months, face a lengthy and demanding period of transition to, and familiarisation with, free political and economic systems. The years ahead will not be easy, as many noble Lords have said. Learning the rules of the democratic political game may be difficult for some. Economic reform will require sacrifices of the kind the Polish people are now making.

As my noble friend Lord Pym said, Western help and encouragement will therefore be important. As many of your Lordships have shown during this debate, you are aware how much is already being done and how important is the role emerging for the European Community. We must show ourselves ready to remain open to our Eastern neighbours in future, as we have done with our neighbours in EFTA. The European Community has consolidated in western Europe a stable order of peace, democracy, prosperity and co-operation. Our goal now must be to work to establish a similar order in the continent of Europe as a whole.

I totally reject the suggestion made by some noble Lords that this Government are in any way adopting an isolationist approach in the European Community. We are playing and shall continue to play a full part in the Community's internal developments and in its expanding relations with other countries.

Yet at the heart of this broad vision of a Europe at peace with itself and integrated as never before in mutual security, there lies a question. The German question has returned, with unexpected speed, to a place of prominence in our day-to-day discussion of European affairs.

It has never left our agenda as a matter of principle. For over 40 years the division of Germany has been a central feature of the division of Europe, and the division of Berlin had symbolised both for over a quarter of a century. Since the 1950s successive British governments have been committed to support the achievement, by peaceful means, of the aim of a reunified Germany enjoying a liberal-democratic constitution and integrated within the European community of nations. Now the opportunity for the German people to exercise self-determination in that cause may be coming closer. That can only be welcome to all of us who believe in the principle of democracy as self-determination.

The implications of German unity, in whatever form, would of course be profound for the continent as a whole. Strategically, it would be necessary to reconcile a unified Germany with the need to preserve a stable balance of security in Europe. That balance has hitherto been assured through the existence of NATO and the Warsaw Pact, incorporating West and East Germany respectively, with allied forces deployed on German soil. The two alliances have not been equivalent. NATO has been a free association of equals, the Warsaw Pact little more than an extension of the Soviet politico-military establishment and an instrument of repression under the Brezhnev doctrine. NATO has served collective Western security interests, the Warsaw Pact primarily Soviet ones. But within each alliance, western European countries and Soviet Union have been able to feel secure. The Federal Republic has repeatedly stressed its commitment to NATO. The two alliances are negotiating arms control agreements but there is still considerable uncertainty about the future and NATO remains the basis for our security. While we recognise and respect the change in Soviet attitudes thanks to Gorbachev and Shevardnadze, a significant Soviet capability remains.

The future of the Warsaw Pact is now less certain. It may start to reform itself; it may shed some of its members. But, as many noble Lords have said, nothing that may happen to the Warsaw Pact will alter NATO's importance as a security framework for its members on a continent which has to accommodate the geographic and military reality of the Soviet Union. And the Federal Republic of Germany is a strong, committed and highly valued ally in NATO.

Is it realistic to suppose that West Germany would wish to turn its back on this historic alliance and all it stands for to achieve unity with the GDR? I do not believe so. For its part, the GDR's membership of the Warsaw Pact remains an issue of strong concern to the Soviet Union as noble Lords and particularly the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, reminded us. Can we suppose this will not remain the case in future? So here, my Lords, is a strategic conundrum to be resolved. I am not saying it would be incapable of resolution, although I have no solutions to propose today. I merely refer to it to illustrate the complex issues which arise in the context of German unity.

Economically, too, the achievement of German unity would be significant for Europe. As the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, said, West Germany is already the strongest economy in Europe. It achieved growth of up to 4 per cent. last year and is likely to continue to grow strongly through the domestic stimulus provided by inward German migration. Some estimates put East German GDP per head at less than a quarter of that of the FRG, yet it is still the highest in eastern Europe. With a skilled workforce, properly motivated, and substantial investment from West Germany, East Germany is likely to grow fast over the coming years.

A Germany which fully integrated the economies of its eastern and western halves would be a formidable economic force—competitor, but also a market and strong partner, one would expect, for the European Community and eastern Europe alike. But economic power and influence may pose challenges for a country's fellow traders too, as Europeans have often found in their dealings with the US and Japan.

Self-determination will be an important element in the process of German unification, but for that to be possible there must first be full democracy in the GDR. Political and economic reform in that country is, however, desirable in itself, irrespective of the implications for German unity. The process of reform is moving forward, albeit slowly. As the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, said, it is of course vital that free and fair elections take place as planned. Reform must be consolidated and made irreversible.

We wish the people in the GDR well. We wish them a democratic, prosperous future. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will visit the GDR next week. He plans to meet representatives of all the leading forces in the country to discuss the prospects for reform.

Beyond successful reform, however, one cannot ignore the fact that a question mark hangs over the future of the GDR as separate state. Already there are people in the GDR calling for unity with the Federal Republic. It is however hard to judge the scale of this support; different opinion polls give different results. Nor is it clear whether all regard unity in the same way. There are various possible models; for example, a confederation of two separate states with full freedom of movement between them and many common bodies, or a full confederation in one country with one capital and one government. It is not for the British Government to pronounce upon the course which Germans should adopt. The future of Germany must be decided, democratically, by the German people.

I have mentioned a process involving both Germans and Europeans. Events in Germany do not take place in a vacuum as the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, made clear in his speech. The Federal Government have themselves clearly acknowledged this. Chancellor Kohl and Herr Genscher have rightly emphasised the links between overcoming the division of Germany and developments in the rest of Europe, where the interests and concerns must also be recognised.

The leaders of the Federal Republic have responded to these concerns in a statesmanlike way. They have made clear repeatedly that their aim is not to press ahead in isolation. They have stressed in particular that they will not be tempted into neutrality. They recognise that their freedom and prosperity is founded on their place in the West, on their membership of NATO and the European Community within a stable Europe. They acknowledge that the future architecture of Germany will need to fit into the future architecture of Europe as a whole.

For their part, the EC and NATO have responded as friends and partners to the Germans' clear desire for support and understanding. In Strasbourg and Brussels last month EC and NATO countries made clear their support for the aim of achieving a "state of peace in Europe in which the German people will regain its unity through self-determination". With the Federal Republic, we agreed that this process "should take place peacefully and democratically in full respect of the relevant agreements and treaties and of all the principles defined by the Helsinki Final Act, in a context of dialogue and East-West co-operation". We also agreed that it has to be placed in the perspective of European integration.

I fully agree with the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, on the importance of the CSCE process. We have played a full part in it from the outset, recognising that it provides a valuable forum for discussion between East and West. We shall continue to do so.

As the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said, it is perhaps relevant that the Helsinki Final Act provides the guarantees on Poland's borders which the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, and others, were seeking, since the Federal Government is a signatory and so has unambiguously accepted its key principles on the inviolability of frontiers in respect of the territorial integrity of participating states. The Federal Republic has also emphasised its continuing commitment to the 1970 treaty between Poland and the FRG which makes its position clear.

The noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, proposed an imaginative scheme for a treaty in 1991. I take note of this proposal, but the people of the two German states have yet to express their views on the question of possible unity. That, of course, must come first.

The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, referred to the four-power talks. We had useful discussions with the Russians at their suggestion on 11th December. These showed that the Russians are now more positive about the allies' ideas for improving conditions in Berlin and we are considering a follow-up meeting if necessary.

We cannot tell how the situation in the GDR will develop. As one of the four powers we retain certain legal responsibilities for the future of Germany; but the main determinant of events in the coming months will be the wishes of the people in the two Germanys. The people of the GDR will take the first major decision on the future of their country when they go to the polls on 6th May.

Against this background Britain's role is to work to develop our contracts at all levels with the two Germanys and to seek to ensure, with our allies and partners, that progress towards unification is achieved —if that is what the Germans want —in a way that sustains and indeed strengthens the security and stability in Europe for which we have worked so hard over the past 40 years.

5.32 p.m.

Lord Callaghan of Cardiff

My Lords, I think everyone will agree that this has been a most interesting and, I trust, useful debate. There have been many shades of difference of opinion, but if one had to point to the basic difference it has been between optimists and pessimists.

I have been accused of unquenchable optimism. I am delighted that at my extreme, advanced age I can still be an optimist about the affairs of this world. On the whole, I think the optimists had rather the better of the day and if there were to be a Division I fancy they would win. Indeed, when I heard the distinguished historians who sit behind the Bishops' Bench —they told us about the difficulties of the fluidity of the situation and how it would be impossible for us to make up our minds at such an early stage while the situation was still developing —I was reminded of Alexander Herzen's remark (I am sure they know this and probably agree with it) that, History is no more than a tale of improvisation without a libretto". My aim is to secure that this time there is a libretto. It seems to me that the historic changes on which we are engaged are of such a tremendous character that we should be thinking ahead. I trust and believe that the Government will do this; not in order to make up our minds now —that would be foolish —but in order to ensure that there are various proposals and ideas that have been thought out as alternatives for the future when we see how it develops. It is along that line that I was delighted to hear the Minister, whom I thank for his attendance and his speech, say that the Government were ready to make the CSCE an important part of their consideration in that matter. I was also glad to hear him say that he was ready to take up what I thought was a most constructive proposal made by the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill. It was the first time that I had heard of it and I must say that I think it is worthy of a great deal of attention in the Foreign Office. I hope that it will get it.

I thank all who were good enough to take part in this debate. We shall return to this topic. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.