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The West German parliament Thursday approved a treaty to merge its economy with that of East Germany on July 1.

East Germany earlier ratified the treaty, which will bring the powerful West German mark and free market system to the East in the first major step to full unification. After the 302-82 vote was announced, lawmakers in East Berlin rose in a standing ovation.

East German Prime Minister Lothar de Maiziere watched the vote in Bonn, where after a full day of debate, the Bundestag, or lower house, approved the economic union treaty 445-60 and a resolution that guarantees Poland's western borders by 487-15.

"After over 40 years of painful separation, the hopes of the people of Germany for the unity and freedom of all Germans are about to be fulfilled," West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl told lawmakers here. He said Germans should seize the historic opportunity to unite, accepting the permanent loss of territory to Poland as part of the price.

The nominal upper house, or Bundesrat, was expected to vote today in favor of ratifying the economic union treaty that makes the West German mark the sole currency of East Germany from July 1.

Earlier, in East Berlin, only six of the 400 Volkskammer (parliament) deputies voted against the Poland resolution, which commits a future parliament of a united Germany to a border treaty with Warsaw. Eighteen abstained.

Formal recognition of the Oder-Neisse border, renouncing claims to land that Germany lost to Poland after World War II, was a key condition for international acceptance of German unification after 45 years of division.

There was greater resistance in the East Berlin parliament to the economic and monetary union treaty, with 82 votes against -- mainly from the former Communist Party, renamed the Party of Democratic Socialism, which condemned the merger terms as socially unjust.

Experts have forecast that up to a third of East Germany's 9 million workers could lose their jobs as antiquated state enterprises crumble in the face of Western market competition.

But Christian Democratic Economics Minister Guenter Krause told the Volkskammer: "The treaty is a decisive step toward German unity and creates the framework for our evolution from a command economy to a social market economy."

West Germany's main opposition party, the left-leaning Social Democrats, criticized the treaty, saying it fails to adequately protect East Germans who face economic hardship in the transition from socialism to a free market.

But their chairman, Hans-Jochen Vogel, told the Bundestag a majority would back the treaty. Failure to do so would be too much of a shock to East German expectations and could lead to "uncontrollable developments," he said.

The leftist Greens party argued against passage, saying the treaty would not bring the two Germanys closer together but would create newer and deeper forms of division by making East Germany a dependent institution.

Greens member Antje Vollmer said "the brutal gluing together" of the two German states would lead to mass unemployment and would hinder the right of East Germans to self-determination.

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