Germany celebrates today the 30th anniversary of the country’s unification — the Day of German Unity, which is a national holiday and a day off.
On October 3, 1990, the eastern part of Berlin and five states of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) — Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia — became part of the Federal Republic of Germany. They began to be called “new” lands.
The ceremony dedicated to the Day of German Unity will take place in the administrative center of Brandenburg — Potsdam. It is this region that now presides over the Bundesrat (the house of representatives of the German federal states) and hosts the celebrations. Their common motto this year is “We are together with each other.”
The ceremony will be attended by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Chancellor Angela Merkel, Head of the Bundesrat Dietmar Voidke, and heads of legislative and judicial authorities. First, the ecumenical service will take place, then Steinmeier and Voidke will deliver speeches.
This year, the pandemic is making adjustments to the organization of commemorative events. Usually, the Day of German Unity is accompanied by massive celebrations, folk festivals, but this time they will not be. Merkel, speaking this week in the Bundestag, complained that the anniversary would not be celebrated as planned a year ago.
The alignment process continues
30 years after unification, in terms of living standards, the east of Germany is still far behind the west. Every year German sociologists assess the living conditions in different federal states and publish the so-called happiness index. According to it, they determine where in the country life is better, and where is worse. From year to year, the picture remains the same — the population of the “new” lands is less satisfied with the reality.
More than €2 trillion has been spent on the process of uniting and leveling the standard of living in euro terms. The Ifo Institute for Economic Research has calculated that 60% to 65% of the total was allocated by the German government to social spending, primarily to raise pensions in the east of the country. About €14.5 billion has been spent on various programs to stimulate the economy of the “new” lands.
The DPA this week calculated that the highest pensions in the western states of Saarland and North Rhine-Westphalia are on average €1,530 after 35 years of pension contributions. They are lowest in the four eastern lands — from €1292 to €1300. The average pension throughout Germany is €1,413.
According to a study conducted in 2019 by the Hans Bockler Foundation, the work of residents in the east of Germany is still paid worse. Thus, citizens in the west earn on average 16.9% more, performing similar duties as their compatriots in the east.
The Korber Foundation, for its part, cites the opinion of 70% of residents of the republic, who believe that the process of reunification of the country is not over yet. Seven out of 10 survey participants indicated that there are still noticeable differences between the population of the former GDR and the Federal Republic of Germany.
Two-thirds of Germany’s residents believe that the reunification process is, in fact, not yet complete. These are the results of a public opinion poll conducted by the YouGov Sociological Institute. 64% of respondents believe that the difference in living standards in the east and west of Germany is still too large. Only 24% hold the opposite point of view, 12% are undecided.
At the same time, 60% of the survey participants as a whole positively assess the fact that the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany managed to reunite, 29% adhere to the opposite point of view.
Ahead of the anniversary, Thuringian Prime Minister Bodo Ramelov urged East Germans to be more confident. “It seems to me that they could have behaved louder, more energetic and more self-confident,” he said in an interview with Die Welt. “.
Initially, the holiday in honor of the unification of the country was planned to be held on November 9 — the day the Berlin Wall fell. However, it was decided to abandon this idea, since the date is associated with a dark period in the history of Germany — in 1923, on this day, the Beer Putsch took place (an attempted coup d’etat undertook by Adolf Hitler and General Erich Ludendorff), and on the night of November 10, 1938, in dozens of cities of Germany were Jewish pogroms — Kristallnacht. For this reason, a different date was chosen for the holiday — October 3, associated with the de facto unification of the FRG and the GDR in 1990.