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Germany

German constitution hinders national unity, says SPD chief

The head of Germany's Social Democrats (SPD) said the country hadn't done enough to integrate East and West Germany since reunification nearly twenty years ago.

Germany's Basic Law

Muentefering thinks eastern Germans do not see the German constitution as their own

Franz Muentefering standing in front of the SPD logo

Muentefering is reaching out to eastern Germans

"Everything suffers from the fact that we didn't really organize reunification in 1989-1990," Franz Muentefering told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper in an interview published on Sunday, April 12.

"Rather we just added East Germany onto the Federal Republic. That has never been cleared up," he said.

Muentefering, whose SPD is in a coalition government with Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), said East Germans felt their life achievements weren't fully recognized.

"Many East Germans have the feeling that we haven't always treated them equally because of the East German system, which the vast majority are not to blame for," he said.

Even with Germany's Basic Law turning 60 next month, the SPD chairman doesn't think there is too much cause to celebrate.

"[East Germans] say: 'Actually it was intended that there would be a collectively drawn up constitution... but you just slipped your Basic Law over us, rather than creating a joint constitution,'" Muentefering said. "That needs to be addressed."

The German Democratic Republic acceded to the Federal Republic of Germany under the terms of article 23 of the latter's Basic Law on Oct. 3, 1990.

Blooming landscapes?

The German flag is hoisted by school children from East and West in front of the Reichstag building in Berlin Tuesday Oct. 3, 1990, in a ceremony marking the unification of Germany.

Germans are still questioning their national unity

As Germany prepares for parliamentary elections this fall, analysts say Social Democrats need to find a strategy that will allow them to emerge from the shadow of the CDU without pandering too much to voters on the left of the political spectrum.

East German states are likely to prove tough for the Social Democrats.

In the heady days of reunification, then Chancellor Helmut Kohl optimistically predicted that the devastated economy of former East Germany would soon turn into a "blooming landscape."

And while some eastern cities -- most notably Berlin, Dresden and Leipzig -- experienced a boom of their own in reunited Germany, boarded-up shop windows, dilapidated tenement blocks and abandoned villages in eastern parts of the country have attested to an inexorable socio-economic decline.

Along with the persistent difference in economic fortunes of the former East and West, the country's political scene still bears a sharp divide, with many voters in the east turning toward the Left party, which is in composed in great part of former members of the East German Communist Party (SED) and disillusioned Social Democrats.

Muentefering stressed that criticism of the East German dictatorship as such must not be extended to the people who lived there.

"They tried to live as humanely as possible," he said, adding that they have "a right to be proud of what they achieved under difficult circumstances."

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