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Bush, Kohl, Gorbachev Meet To Celebrate Fall of the Wall

By William Drozdiak

The trio of world leaders who orchestrated the reunification of Germany returned Monday to the city where the Cold War collapsed with the simple breach of a steel and concrete wall 10 years ago.

The mood was triumphant as former President George Bush, former German chancellor Helmut Kohl and Mikhail Gorbachev, the last president of the Soviet Union, were honored at a lavish ceremony at city hall. But the celebration was tempered by the recognition that the dream of a united, democratic Europe that seemed so close a decade ago has yet to be realized.

“After all we’ve been through, we still have much to do to secure the values of freedom and prosperity in eastern Europe,” Bush declared at the ceremony also attended by Kohl and Gorbachev, whose collaboration helped ensure a peaceful end to four decades of East-West confrontation.

Added Gorbachev at another point in his visit here: “Now, 10 years after, we see the world does not appear as we had hoped. Europe is no longer divided, at least not in the old sense of the word, but one cannot call it united by any means.”

The reunion of three leaders here has become the centerpiece of anniversary celebrations marking the collapse of the Berlin Wall 10 years ago Tuesday. The fall of the Wall was the signature event in a year in which tens of millions of people went free in Poland, Hungary, the former country of Czechoslovakia and farther east. It would lead to the reunification of Germany and an end to Europe’s post-World War II division within a year.

Across the continent, there is genuine appreciation that the triumph of free market democracies has improved living standards on both sides of the former Cold War divide. But while prosperity and freedom have reached places once dominated by repressive totalitarian regimes, there is still anxiety about growing disparities between rich and poor, and about a settling of old scores -- between Communist and non-communist, between one ethnic group and another.

In the view of many politicians, business leaders and academic experts, the revolution of 1989 is still passing through a perilous transition. Beside coping with the dangers of ethnic warfare that has spilled so much blood in the Balkans, Europe still confronts economic and psychological barriers between East and West.