The two German parliaments ratified - as anticipated - a crucial bilateral treaty that settles the legal, financial and technical details of Oct. 3 German unification.
Both parliaments Thursday approved the pact with the required two-thirds majority, shortly after the West German government assured its neighbors and allies that a unified Germany will never repeat the atrocities of Nazism and that unification will be "an investment" in a European future.Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher made the remarks in a statement to parliament at the beginning of the session to debate the treaty signed by the two German governments.
In West Germany's 519-member Bundestag, 442 parliamentarians voted in favor of the treaty, 47 against and three abstained.
Those who voted against included members of the left-leaning, environmentalist Green party, as well as arch-conservative politicians opposed to a clause formally recognizing the loss of former German territories ceded to Poland after Germany lost World War II.
Deputies in East Berlin burst into applause when the document was accepted, while parliamentarians in Bonn sang the national anthem upon ratification - a rare occurrence in the West German parliament.
In the 400-seat Volkskammer, the East German parliament, 299 deputies voted for the treaty. Another 80, most of them communists, opposed it and one representative abstained.
Shortly before the vote in East Berlin, parliamentary President Sabine Bergmann-Pohl said that "the process of German unification is only at the beginning."
"It will need much time, great intuition and courage for possibly unpopular decisions to fill old ditches and to avoid creating new ones," she said.
In his address to the Bundestag, Genscher said, "On Oct. 3, the German people will again live in a democratic state - for the first time after 57 years. Our contribution for one Europe is also an investment in our European future."
He said Germany had lost its liberty Jan. 30, 1933, the day Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany, and lapsed into a period of fascism and war before the country was divided after World War II.
"Many Germans lost their lives, their health, all their belongings and their homeland. And all of us lost the respect and friendship of the other peoples," Genscher said.
He reiterated the German borders are final and will not be changed, a reference to Polish fears that a united Germany will want back former German territories which became part of Poland after World War II.
"The world looks upon Germany and the world should know: We know our responsibility and we will fulfill it," he added.
The bilateral unification treaty sets down the legal and financial aspects of the merger, which entails the absorption of East Germany in West Germany's Federal Republic - ending the 41-year existence of the German Democratic Republic, East Germany.
The treaty was signed after almost two months of tough negotiations between the two German governments and within each of the two parliaments.