09 May 1986 - 11 May 1986

Divided Germany and the Future of Europe

Chair: Sir Nicholas Henderson GCMG

On the weekend 9-11 May the Foundation addressed itself for the first time in the year to an important European theme. The conference subject was "Divided Germany and the future of Europe". Sir Nicholas Henderson took the chair. For many years questions about the division of Germany tended to be left in the too-difficult tray by tacit agreement between all concerned. Recently the subject has been taken out for fairly frequent airings in the Federal Republic of Germany and has figured on many international discussion agendas. The aim at Ditchley was to put the Germany question in the broader context of the division of Europe and to assess whether there was now any greater hope for movement in east-west relations in Europe than for the past forty years. In addition to US and British participation of the usual size, there were six German, three French and two Canadian participants and a member of the External Relations Directorate-General of the European Commission. The quality of discussion at the conference was high. The Federal German Ambassador honoured Ditchley with his presence throughout the conference. Mrs Lynda Chalker MP, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, took part in the opening session.

At first it looked as though the discussions would concentrate too much, with sterile results, on the German question. Later it looked as though they might degenerate into a loose exchange of trans-Atlantic recriminations about an alleged Rambo-tendency on one side and alleged 'wetness' on the other. In the end the debates held together and were kept relevant to the broad European theme.

The German participants were at pains to explain that the reunification of Germany was not a live issue. Nevertheless there was a national problem for Germans, and it presented itself on both sides of the dividing line running through Germany. There was a clear thread of continuity in Deutschlandpolitik between successive governments in Bonn. The essence of the policy was to be found in small steps to improve relations and contacts between the FRG and the GDR. The German participants spoke of the need for more support from their allies in pursuing their Deutschlandpolitik. Others round the table replied that the allies had never failed to support them, but in any case it was primarily for the Germans themselves to cope with their own national problem if reunification was not the issue. It was agreed that change/improvement would be small, piecemeal and slow and would depend heavily on the interaction of forces external to Germany.

Up to the time of the eastern treaties and the Quadripartite Agreement on Berlin in the early seventies, priority tended to be given to ideas for alleviating Germany's predicament rather than to hopes of developing more active relations with the other countries of eastern Europe. At this conference at Ditchley there seemed to be more hope of movement in relations with the eastern European countries than in the German question. The Helsinki Agreement in 1975 may have been a turning point in this respect. The conference discussed the dilemma which is presented by relations with eastern European countries: should the governments be cultivated in order to encourage them to assert a degree of independence from the Soviet Union, or should the peoples of Eastern Europe be encouraged to press against their governments for more human rights, more respect for law and less oppressive government? The answer was that both courses had to be pursued in parallel, difficult though it might be to strike the right balance at any given moment (Romania was the egregious example of getting the balance wrong). There were various forces working in favour of more active relations between western and eastern European countries, and the Soviet Union could not obstruct them all along the line.

Somewhat surprisingly, the conference did not seem to attach great importance to trade and economic relations as influential instruments for bringing about change. As a result there was little discussion of the possible implications of dealings between the European Community and the Comecon countries, collectively and individually. Quiet, or quiet-ish, diplomacy on a country by country basis seemed to be the favourite formula. But it was recognised that the Soviet grip on eastern Europe was a core element in the Soviet concept of the security, stability and legitimacy of the Soviet system as a whole. The problem was to find ways of inducing the Soviet Union to modernise its security concept and to learn that greater independence in eastern Europe need not be incompatible with the security of the Soviet Union. This would be made more difficult by ideological offensives, which would be the antithesis of quiet diplomacy. The most testing times for both the Soviet Union and the West would arise when further turbulence occurred in eastern European countries, as seemed bound to happen between now and the end of the century. The art would lie in using such happenings to weaken the Soviet grip without precipitating disaster.

There was full agreement that the highest priority for the Atlantic powers was to stay united behind agreed policies if they were to have any chance of influencing eastern Europe in the desired direction. This thought produced a good deal of debate, sometimes well outside the agenda of the conference, about the reasons for anti-Americanism in Europe and of discontent with Europe in the U.S. The Germans present declared that anti-Americanism in Germany was in no way connected with Deutschlandpolitik: it was caused by policies related to nuclear weapons and arms control and stemmed from the moment at which the stationing of new intermediate range nuclear forces in central Europe, against a background of stalemate in arms-control negotiations, came to be regarded as heightening dangers rather than increasing security. This was not seriously disputed by anyone present. American voices argued that it was rhetoric about policies rather than the policies themselves which upset European opinion. The policies were hammered out with allies and the latter were not ignored. The wide-ranging rhetoric was an inescapable part of the U.S. political process and it was not possible to have a strong, supportive U.S. without rhetoric. Libya, the Middle East, Central America and other familiar topics remote from central and eastern Europe were invoked. When the discussion came back to Europe it seemed to be accepted that the Alliance was not seriously at odds over policy towards the eastern European countries and the G.D.R., but over more general questions about nuclear strategy, arms control negotiations and the use of force in dealing with terrorism and other relatively local problems. These have been, are and will continue to be questions for other conferences. As regards efforts to overcome the division of Europe, the message at the conference seemed to be 'steady as we go', but any progress will at best be very slow: meanwhile we must all hang closely together.

This Note reflects the Director’s personal impressions of the conference.  No participant is in any way committed to its content or expression.

Conference Chairman: Sir Nicholas Henderson GCMG
Director, Foreign & Colonial Investment Trust, M&G Reinsurance, Hambros, Tarmac; a Governor and Member of the Council of Management of the Ditchley Foundation


Mr Vernon Bogadanor

Fellow, Brasenose College, Oxford and University Lecturer in Politics, University of Oxford; Senior Visiting Fellow, European Centre for Political Studies, Policy Studies Institute, London
Mrs Lynda Chalker
Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO); Member of Parliament (Conservative), Wallasey
Mr Richard Davy
Managing Editor, Oxford Analytica Daily Brief
Mr Hugh Dykes MP
(Conservative), Harrow East; Associate Member, Quilter, Hilton, Goodison (Stockbrokers); Vice-President, Conservative Group for EEC; Joint Honorary Secretary, European Movement
Admiral Sir James Eberle GCB
Director, The Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House; a Governor and Member of the Council of Management of the Ditchley Foundation
Mr Timothy Garton Ash
Foreign Editor, The Spectator; Leader Writer on Central European Affairs, The Times
Sir Curtis Keeble GCMG
Formerly HM Diplomatic Service; Member of the Council, Royal Institute of International Affairs; Vice-President, Great Britain-USSR Association; a Governor, BBC
Mr Christopher Mallaby CMG
Deputy Secretary, Cabinet Office
Dr Roger Morgan
Head of European Centre for Political Studies, Policy Studies Institute, London; Visiting Lecturer, London School of Economics; Member of Council, Centre for European Policy Studies, Brussels; Member, Advisory Council, Austrian Institute for International Affairs.
Sir Frank Roberts GCMG GCVO
President, Anglo-German Association
Mr Malcolm Rutherford
Assistant Editor, Financial Times
Mr Derek Thomas CMG
Deputy Under-Secretary of State for Europe and Political Director, FCO
The Rt Hon Shirley Williams
Professorial Fellow, Policy Studies Institute; Co-founder and President, Social Democratic Party (SDP)

Mr Peter Hancock

Minister, Canadian Embassy, Bonn
Professor Robert Spencer
Director, Centre for International Studies, and Professor of History, University of Toronto; Secretary, Atlantic Council of Canada

Mr John Maslen

Adviser, Directorate G (Relations with State-Trading Countries), Directorate-General I (External Relations), Commission of the European Communities, Brussels

Professeur Anne-Marie le Gloannec

Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, Centre d’Etudes et de Recherche Internationales, Paris
Professeur Pierre Hassner
Senior Researcher, Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, Centre d’Etudes et de Recherche Internationales, Paris; Visiting Professor of Politics, Johns Hopkins University, European Centre, Bologna
Monsieur Gabriel Robin
Formerly Director of Political Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Paris

Herr Thomas Kielinger

Editor-in-Chief, Rheinischer Merkur, Bonn
Dr Detlef Kühn
President, Gesamtdeutschesinstitut, Bonn
Professor Dr Richard Lowenthal
Chairman, Department of International Relations, Free University, Berlin; Guest Professor, Columbia University, New York and University of California, Berkeley
Professor Dr Eberhard Schulz
Deputy Director, Forschungsinstitut der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik, Bonn, and Professor at the University of Bonn
Herr Berndt von Staden
Coordinator for German-American Cooperation in the field of Inter-social Relations, Cultural and Information Policy
HE Rüdiger Frhr von Wechmar
Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Court of St James’s; a Governor of the Ditchley Foundation

Professor Gordon Craig

Professor of History, Stanford University; Honorarprofessor, Free University, Berlin; Ehrenmitglied, Historische Kommission zu Berlin
Mr James F Dobbins
Deputy Chief of Mission, US Embassy, Bonn
Dr Robert Legvold
Associate Director, W Averell Harriman Institute for Advanced Study of the Soviet Union, Columbia University, New York
Mr Frank E Loy
President, The German Marshall Fund of the United States, Washington, DC
Mr James Markham
Chief of Bureau, The New York Times, Bonn
The Hon Jack F Matlock Jr
Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Senior Director of European and Soviet Affairs on the National Security Council Staff
Mr Charles William Maynes
Editor, International Organisation Program, Carnegie Endowment
The Hon William Middendorf
United States Representative to the European Communities, Brussels
Mr Andrew Nagorski
Bureau Chief, Newsweek, Bonn
Mr John E Rielly
President, The Chicago Council on Foreign Relations; Consultant to National Security Council; Member, Board of Directors, American Council on Germany
Professor Stephen Szabo
Professor of National Security Affairs, National War College, Washington, DC; Professorial Lecturer in European Studies, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University; Professorial Lecturer, Department of Political Science, George Washington University
Mr William Woessner
Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs, Department of State, Washington, DC