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The German reunification led to the fusion of two immensely different systems: On the one hand the sovereign, democratic, and as a free-market economy very successful Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). On the other hand, the communist, dictatorial German Democratic Republic (GDR) that was strictly tied to the Soviet Union and had economically almost collapsed.
This raised fundamental legal questions – despite the common history – which had to be surmounted within a very short period of time. The topics to be managed ranged from the position of reunited Germany within the geopolitical sphere as well as the European Union to its basic orientation in domestic and economic matters.
The various legal challenges of such a colossal task will be illustrated and discussed on the basis of selected, especially important issues. One example is the choice of the constitution. It had to be decided whether to design a completely new constitution for the united Germany, a new constitution only for the territory of the former German Democratic Republic or to simply extend the old constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany. Another example is the treatment of infringements of basic human rights through former GDR officials such as members of the state security police or border guards who had shot at (and often killed) refugees.
Also, the handling of the insecure situation of property in the former GDR – caused by earlier dispossession and their partly rescission after the reunion – and the liquidation of public property through the so-called Treuhand agency (an organization which was charged with managing and, if possible, privatizing the property of the former GDR) posed huge challenges to the entire legal system.
Finally the treatment of reunified Germany within the European Union – for instance concerning the extensive grant of subsidies within the states of the former GDR – required intensive negotiations and exceptions.
German History in Documents and Images http://germanhistorydocs.ghi-dc.org/section.cfm?section_id=16
Frowein, The Reunification of Germany, The American Journal of International Law, Vol. 86, No. 1 (Jan., 1992), pp. 152-163 (http://www.jstor.org/stable/2203146)
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About the lecturer
Prof. Markus Rehberg is a professor for civil law, German and international economic law, legal theory, and legal economics at the University of Rostock. He studied law in Heidelberg and Cambridge and further studied political economics in Berlin and Hagen. After graduating with his Ph.D. in Berlin he began working in Munich, reaching his habilitation and teaching license at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. He is working and researching contract law, international economic law, legal economics, and legal theory.