Chancellor Helmut Kohl today announced a plan to draw the two Germanys into an informal confederation that would eventually lead to reunification. West Germany's major opposition party also called for unity.
East Germany's leaders oppose reunification, but a proposed confederation is being discussed.
Kohl's 30-minute address to Parliament was the most thorough delineation of his vision of eliminating the partition imposed at the end of World War II.
In a 10-point plan, he proposed taking steps to "develop confederative structures between the two states in Germany in order to create a federation, a federal order."
He stressed, however, that such measures could be undertaken only if there are free elections in East Germany that include non-socialist parties. East Germany's new Communist leaders have said such elections could be held as early as next fall.
Kohl also said steps toward German reunification must be linked to improved East-West relations and a new European order based on cooperation, economic integration and greater freedom of movement.
"The future structure of Germany must fit into the whole architecture of Europe as a whole," he said.
Kohl suggested the creation of consultative committees with East Germany, including a joint parliamentary panel.
"Such a coming together is in the interest of the continuation of German history," Kohl said.
Earlier, Hans-Jochen Vogel, the leader of the opposition Social Democrats, proposed a confederation between the German states as an interim step toward unity. He also insisted that German unity must come as part of the process of overall European integration.
Vogel used the word unity rather than formal reunification in his speech to Parliament.
In the past, the Social Democrats have cautioned against hastening toward reunification, and some in the leftist party have opposed it.
The ZDF television network said Kohl gave no dates for the completion of his plan in an earlier talk with governing party lawmakers. Kohl has previously said he envisions a reunited Germany existing peacefully with its neighbors and other countries.
The newspaper Bild said Kohl's plan includes setting up joint committees to coordinate cooperation in economic matters, crime prevention, ecology and other domestic areas, while "leaving membership in NATO and the Warsaw Pact untouched."