The newly elected Parliament of a united Germany convened for the first time today and began the challenging task of forging a common future for two distinct societies.
The 662 members of the Bundestag, the policy-making lower house, held their inaugural session in Berlin’s Reichstag building, the historic seat of German legislatures.
Lawmakers, however, will return to the seat of government in Bonn for subsequent meetings. They eventually will decide whether to move permanently to Berlin, the new nation’s symbolic capital.
The first session was opened by Willy Brandt, former chancellor and veteran politician. The guests of honor included Italian President Francesco Cossiga.
The lawmakers were elected by Germans from both East and West on Dec. 2, the culmination of a series of milestones that began with former East Germany’s peaceful revolt against its Communist government.
The first session may indicate whether the legislators from former East Germany will act as a single voting bloc on behalf of eastern Germany even though they are affiliated with different political parties.
Lawmaker Wolfgang Thierse, who before unification and the December elections led the Social Democrat faction in the first freely elected East German Parliament, said he hopes the eastern German legislators will vote as one bloc.
“It’s going to be more difficult for us to stay in the picture,” Thierse said. “There’s going to be a perception we’re not as intelligent, not as politically clever, and that doesn’t wash.
“We have to keep our interests alive,” he said.