Building an International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation

German Reunification and the New Europe

The encounter between West Germany’s Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl and the newly elected East German Prime Minister Hans Modrow at the 1990 Annual Meeting in Davos was decisive in determining the course of German reunification.


In October 1989, the Berlin Wall – the divide between East and West and stark symbol of the Cold War – was pulled down.

Helmut Kohl recognized the urgency to act. The German Democratic Republic was imploding and needed immediate economic support to maintain financial stability. For his part, the deeply affected Modrow realized that he could no longer insist on the post-reunification neutrality of Germany.

On his return to Bonn, Chancellor Kohl moved quickly. Days later, on 7 February, his cabinet confirmed officially the proposal for the monetary union of the two Germanies. Eight months later, the process was complete and, on 3 October 1990, Germany was reunified.

Spurred by the atmosphere of awakening and excitement that prevailed in Davos, an informal group of East and West German parliamentarians and business leaders joined forces under the leadership of Otmar Franz, Chairman of the Inter-Parliamentary Working Group on European Currency in the European Parliament. They called for immediate implementation of a monetary stabilization programme for the German Democratic Republic. This initiative became the basis for the economic reunification of West and East Germany.

At the Annual Meeting, a session on the “New Europe” took place, bringing together for the first time the heads of Western and Eastern European countries. In June, four months before the formal reunification of the Germany, the Forum organized its first East-West Germany meeting, which took place in a hotel in East Berlin. Participants from the West had to cross Checkpoint Charlie to reach the venue on the other side of the Berlin Wall. One week later, that infamous checkpoint was dismantled.

At Davos, another historic meeting took place. Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who would step down as his country’s leader in November, sat down with Vo Van Kiet, First Vice-Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, who would become prime minister from 1991 to 1997. Two years after this encounter, Vietnam signed the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, a move that led the country to become a member of ASEAN in 1995.

Klaus Schwab invited the heads of all the political constituencies of South Africa to the Forum's headquarters in Geneva. They met together for the first time to discuss the post-apartheid future. This meeting led to the strong partnership of the Forum with South Africa and to a whole range of activities and initiatives relating to that country and the rest of the African continent.