The German government has, over the past years, been harshly criticized for its investment in rebuilding the former East Germany, but Berlin is sticking to its program of support.
Some believe it will take another 15 years to reach economic parity
In a report on German unity, finalized by the Social Democrat-Green cabinet on Wednesday, the Social Democrat Minister responsible for eastern Germany's economic development, Manfred Stolpe, clearly stated that the greatest challenges for the former east are reducing unemployment and stemming the flow of youngsters who are leaving their homes for western states.
At at rate of 18 percent, double that in western Germany, unemployment is the former east's worst enemy. Stolpe said that growth requires a reform policy for the whole of Germany, not only targeted support for the east.
"The dramatic labor market situation, in which we are losing more jobs than we are gaining, especially in the realm of construction, is dampening any progress we are making in terms of economic development," he said.
How to spe n d se n sibly
Stolpe was referring to the manufacturing industry which is growing twice as fast in the eastern states as those in the western part of the country. He stressed that in future, the air and space travel, automobile and chemical industries, tourism and health should be given investment priority.
By the same token, he outlined his opposition to penalizing states in the former east who don't use the money they receive for rebuilding their infrastructure, but put it towards paying off their debts instead.
A n other 15 years
In his report in this, the 15th year since unification, Stolpe focused on economic issues, but also listed well-known problems such as the migration of young people and infrastructure deficits. He suggested that it would take another 15 years to complete the path to unification, and appealed for patience.
"The mood in the east and west are one and the same," he said. "People are unsatisfied, impatient and they no longer really believe in the 'Aufbau Ost' reconstruction program. I think what is required for the second half, if you like, is patience and single-mindedness, but people will also have to get used to being proud of things."
In his report, Stolpe concluded that overall, since 1990, the former East Germany has evolved substantially, with the average income now twice as high as in 1991, yet still 15 percent below the overall German average.
He said that the situation for pensioners was particularly improved, with life expectancy increased thanks to better health care. He also stated that there were now greater similarities in life styles and ideals of citizens from all over Germany.