A Year After Reunification
Germany faces deep internal disagreements in nearly every area of policy and planning
ONE year from its reunification, Germany is anything but one. On the economic, social, security policy, and - most important - psychological levels, Germany is contending with disunity.On the economic level, Germany has problems as a whole and problems between its western and eastern parts. The country had a budget deficit of $65 billion in 1991. In its last forecast the government indicated a $29 billion deficit for next year. The western German inflation rate jumped to 4.4 percent in July, the highest rate in 10 years. For the first time since 1973, France's yearly inflation rate dropped below Germany's. In August, Karl Pohl, the former Bundesbank president, stated that the inflation rate is soaring because the country is not prepared to make sacrifices for reunification. It was always clear there was a price to be paid to bring the eastern German economy to western German standards. The latest estimates by Economics Minister Mollemann are for the German GNP growth rate to slow from 4.6 percent in 1990 to 3 percent in 1991, and to 2 percent in 1992. Economic differences between the two parts of the count ry continue to persist some 15 months after their economic union in July 1990. The most stark disparity is unemployment. This soared in the east from 9.5 percent in June to 12 percent in July, and for the first time unemployment there exceeded 1 million. Wolfgang Scheremet of the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin stated that "eastern Germany could have more than a million people unemployed until well into 1993." In the west, unemployment rose to 6.3 percent in July, up from 5.9 percent in June. It was estimated this summer that 350,000 eastern Germans now commute to jobs in the west, showing more disparity. The fundamental problem appears to be relatively low productivity of east German workers. Recent wage settlements provide many with 60 percent of the average wage of the west Germans even though productivity is one-third of western levels. It is no coincidence, then, that the economic uncertainties corresponded with the outbreak this spring of violence against foreigners. This violence, reminiscent of Kristallnacht in 1938, said the German news magazine Spiegel, is committed by young neo-Nazis or skinheads against asylum-seekers, foreign workers, and students from countries like Romania, Turkey, Vietnam, and Mozambique. Lured by riches of a new promised land and helped by liberal German laws, asylum-seekers increased dramatically over the last decade. From 19,700 applicants in 1983, the number rose to 193,000 in 1990, and is estimated to top 220,000 in 1991. By comparison the Western European country with the next highest number of applicants in 1990 was France with 56,000. This tremendous influx has increased competition for jobs and strained Germany's social-welfare system. It is this subject that makes headlines, not the impending anniversary of reunification. Spiegel's cover boldly carried the word "hate." The country witnessed 60 attacks in less than a week, with 14 injuries in attacks in 16 towns and cities on German Unity Day alone. Most of this violence has occurred in eastern Germany, but not exclusively. Again, political leaders are divided on what should be done. The government has deplored the violence and called for curbs on the influx of refugees. The Social Democrats and Greens argue that the government is not doing enough to stop the xenophobia and that calling for restrictions on the influx merely incites more hatred. In the area of security policy, the debate ignited by the Gulf war continues on just what type of military missions the German armed forces, the Bundeswehr, should perform. The government last spring told the armed forces that, in addition to their traditional tasks of national and NATO defense, they must be prepared to take part in collective security operations outside the NATO area. Some argue the German military should perform only United Nations peacekeeping operations, others hold that it should pe rform wider military missions but only under the UN banner. There's no consensus on whether a constitutional change is needed. By far the most profound division is the psychological one that ironically developed since reunification. People now talk about an "inner wall" between "ossies" and "wessies" (eastern and western Germans) which may take generations to correct. This divide has come from the different experiences the two groups have had. The last time east Germans lived under democracy was in 1932, under the weak Weimar Republic. The authoritarian Nazi system, followed by the totalitarian communist system, stifled initiative and punished nonconformism. In theory, the individual only achieved meaning as part of the state. They thus learned to keep a low profile, work behind or around the state, and hold their thoughts to themselves - not the best nurturing for entering a democratic, free enterprise system. It was this democratic, free enterprise system that the west Germans adopted, creating their wirtschaftswunder (economic miracle). They learned the value of good PR, how to negotiate hard and fast, and to focus on the bottom line. This has spawned the stereotypes of the naive, confused, lazy ossie and the slick, arrogant, fast-dealing wessie. The "we-they" feeling was shown recently in a poll conducted by Infas, a Bonn institute. It showed that 69 percent of west Germans consider themselves diligent workers, but only 34 percent believe that east Germans are. Three-quarters of the easterners polled believe westerners are egotistical. Only 22 percent feel this way about fellow easterners. Another survey this summer by the mass tablo id Bild showed that 65 percent of eastern Germans still think of themselves as "East Germans" not simply Germans. Sixty percent of the westerners think of themselves as "West Germans." Egon Bahr, an SPD former cabinet minister, has said: "Once we swore to the nation's unity despite its division; today, despite unity, we must realize the nation remains divided." These problems notwithstanding, there are a number of factors suggesting the German state will weather this unique storm of reunification and that the German nation will cohere and persevere. Economically, most analysts in recent months agree the economy of east Germany is turning around. The service and construction sectors have improved considerably. On the political level, the West German system has proved itself to be healthy and durable. The postwar years have not seen any monopoly of power by the C hristian Democrats or the Social Democrats. A fourth party, the Greens, has been able to break into the national political system and voice the concerns of major segments of the population on such issues as nuclear weapons, energy, and the environment. Germany's division of power and institutionalized cooperation between state and federal levels is unique. Socially, in a recent Infas poll, only one in five westerners wish the inner wall were back. Only one in eight easterners does. Finally, while the inner wall is substantial, ossies and wessies share essentially the same culture. In his front-page commentary in Die Welt the day after the anniversary of reunification, Joachim Neander indicated that the "party music on the first birthday of unification rings disharmoniously." The US should help Germany solve its problems. The sooner this happens, the sooner Germany can reciprocate for the assistance given to it since World War II and more fully shoulder its responsibilities. As it was a receiver of Marshall Plan aid, it can continue to be a provider of economic aid to Eastern Europ e and the Soviet Union. As it received democracy, it can now be the transmitter of democracy. As it benefited from the military protection of the US and NATO, it can join the US and other democracies on watch and on assignment.