German reunification: Merkel urges Germans to bridge old gap
Germany's outgoing chancellor, Angela Merkel, spoke at an event in Halle on Sunday to celebrate 31 years since the reunification of East and West Germany at the end of the Cold War.
Merkel — who grew up in East Germany — said that "mentally and structurally, unification hasn't been completed yet."
She was referring to the persistent divisions between the eastern German states, which once formed the communist-ruled GDR, and the western Republic that absorbed the new states in 1990.
Western Germans have remained, on average, wealthier than their eastern counterparts. The rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), especially in the states of Saxony and Thuringia, is also seen as a symptom of Germany's division.
What did Merkel say?
"We can argue over exactly how in the future, but we know that the answer is in our hands, that we have to listen and speak with each other, that we have differences, but above all things in common," the chancellor said.
Her words came as Germany's four main parties began official coalition talks with the aim of forming a new government after last Sunday's election.
"Be prepared for new encounters, be curious about others, tell your own histories and tolerate differences," she added. "That is the lesson from 31 years of German unity."
Merkel will stay on as chancellor until a new government is formed, but Sunday's speech is likely to be one of her last.
Merkel has been in office for 16 years. Her party, the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) had its worst-ever result in the recent election. Her successor as CDU leader, chancellor candidate Armin Laschet, has been partly blamed for the low result.
"We sometimes take our democratic accomplishments too lightly," Merkel said in her speech, asking the public to "reject radicalization."
She pointed to the murder of her CDU colleague Walter Lübcke by a neo-Nazi in 2019 and the attempted storming of a synagogue in Halle later that same year.
"Diversity and difference," she added.
ab/aw (AFP, AP)