The challenge "Aufbau Ost"

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The reunification process is without historical precedent and a national tour de force that cannnot be completed in a few years.

Following the collapse of the GDR it emerged that its average productivity was a third of that of the Federal Republic, such that instead of the expected DM 600 billion (some EUR 300 billion) profit, the Treuhandanstalt, the agency commissioned to privatize the state-owned enterprises, ultimately posted a DM 230 billion deficit. The hope of being able to finance the necessary investments in the infrastructure of the new federal states with the proceeds from the privatization of the so-called “people’s property” had been deceptive.

The cost of German Unity grew even faster than even its most pessimistic estimates had supposed. The population in the east had to bear the social burden of unity and, primarily, the population in the west the financial. The annus mirabilis of 1989/1990 was followed by a sober convergence process with a long-term perspective. Furthermore, the success stories of the “Aufbau Ost” project, which were gradually becoming visible, were still not taken adequate notice of.

One of the most spectacular results of “Aufbau Ost“ project was the renovation of inner-city residential quarters not just in cities such as Dresden, Leipzig, Chemnitz, and Halle, which in the GDR had been continually decaying. Other examples are the telecommunications facilities in the new federal states, which are among the most cutting-edge in Europe, the establishment of a competitive university structure, as well as the leading position of the solar and and environmental technology operations that have now settled there. Enormous efforts have also been channeled into infrastructure, environmental and nature protection, developing tourism and the preservation of cultural assets.

This is countered by the migration of primarily young people from east to west, which has admittedly slowed down in comparison with the first few years of unity, and the subsequent shrinking and aging of the population in the new federal states. Transfers from the west, which in 2009 totaled an estimated EUR 1.6 trillion net (minus the payments made from the east) correspond with the migration from the east. The efforts made as part of “Aufbau Ost” are an example of national solidarity, the like of which could hardly have been expected in a political atmosphere dominated by post-national discourse. Despite all the progress that has been made, in the future creating equal living conditions in the east and west will remain a primary topic in finally achieving internal unity. The Annual Report of the Federal Government on the Status of German Unity provides a regular overview of developments.

Herfried Münkler

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