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Reunification report highlights former East Germany progress

The former states of East Germany are continuing to catch up with the former West German states in terms of economics and affluence, a new report says. But there is still some ground to make up in some areas.

The German government issued its annual report on the state of German unity on Wednesday, saying economic development in the six states that comprised former East Germany are catching up with the ten states from former West Germany.

"We can see that in the past few years in the new German states [the states of former East Germany], material affluence has significantly improved," said Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich in a statement accompanying the release of the report.

After German reunification in 1990, many East Germans flooded West Germany looking for employment or improved living conditions – a trend that has continued ever since. But according to the government's report, this migration from East to West has nearly stopped completely. The birth rate in East Germany is higher than that of West Germany, as well.

Germany's reunification commissioner, Christoph Bergner of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Party, said the project of building up the east still wasn't finished.

"We have to recognize that the new states haven't yet been able to close the gap to the West German states in all areas," he said.

The unemployment rate in the former East German states sunk to 10.7 percent in 2012– the lowest level in over 20 years – but it still remains nearly twice as high as the unemployment rate in the western states (5.9 percent).

Salaries and wages in former East Germany are still only about 80 percent of those in the west, which is about the same proportion as in the mid-1990s. The GDP of the eastern states is about 71 percent of that of the western states. However, the former East German states have a GDP that is just about average when compared with the rest of the European Union.

mz/dr (AFP, dpa)