One day before the anniversary of the war that drove them apart, the German states signed a sweeping treaty today meant as a final blueprint for bringing them together.
German leaders met in a 17th-Century palace of German princes to sign the document, which seeks to reconcile the stark differences between two societies that will form one nation Oct. 3.
The pact will allow East Germany to retain its liberal abortion law and gives Western investors more rights to buy East German land, a measure economists say is necessary to rescue the nation’s dire economy.
It also calls for Berlin to become the capital of a united Germany, guarantees some social programs for jobless East Germans and recognizes the five states East Germany will become in a united nation.
The treaty leaves many crucial decisions on uniting the nations to the new government that will be elected to lead both nations Dec. 2.
The 900-page document was signed by West German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, and East Germany’s top unity negotiator, Guenther Krause.
Earlier, the cabinets of West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and East German Prime Minister Lothar de Maiziere formally approved the pact.
“Today we are fulfilling one of the last remaining hurdles to German unification,” De Maiziere said.
The parliaments of the two nations likely will approve the treaty next week.
The signing took place on the eve of the 51st anniversary of World War II. On Sept. 1, 1939, Hitler’s forces invaded Poland, and France and England declared the war that eventually split Germany.
The treaty promises that the new united Germany will respect the borders of its European neighbors.
The pact reconciles some fundamental legal and political differences between the two nations that followed vastly different paths after they were carved from the conquered Nazi empire.
Schaeuble said the goal of the broad accord “was to again standardize what had been 45 years of developing separate systems of laws and differing economic and living conditions.”
The treaty itself was not necessary to German unification because East Germany already has voted to merge with West Germany.