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Unification Day

DW staff (kjb)
October 3, 2006

On Oct. 3 Germans sleep late and barbeque if the weather's good. Ahead of the Unification Day, 16 years after the joining of East and West, newspapers commented on the challenge of integration and the status quo.

Fireworks and a massive crowd in front of the Brandenburger Gate on Oct. 3, 1990 to celebrate reunification
Germany was reunited on Oct. 3, 1990Image: AP

"As the German division came to an end 16 years ago, it began again. The new division is not between East and West, but between East and East," wrote the Süddeutsche Zeitung Monday from Munich. "Today there are two Easts in Germany: the booming East and the declining East." "Silicon Saxony," Jena and Leipzig are flourishing, but Anklam and Uckermark are becoming more and more desolate, continued the paper. Democratic defeatism "is not the result of a political genetic defect, but of the real and alleged experiences of many people in the East. The West Germans had the fortune of experiencing democracy parallel to the "economic miracle" in the 50s and 60s; they experienced democracy as a form of government in which their lives improved. Thirty years later, many East Germans experienced the opposite."

"Only one-quarter of those in former East Germany is content with the functioning of democracy. In former West Germany, it's still one in two," commented Berlin's daily Tagesspiegel Monday. "And it shouldn't necessarily be the National Democratic Party (NPD) that teaches them they are capable of enforcing more seriousness and candor themselves. Practical political constraints require political courage and the capacity to act in a democracy. They don't require lies. Sixteen years after German unification might just be the right time to remember that."

The daily Leipziger Volkszeitung wrote in its Monday edition, "Germans have made progress with integration in the day-to-day things," it wrote, pointing out that clichés like that of the ever complaining Easterner or the Westerner always knowing better haven't entirely disappeared yet, but they've become out-dated and they're used less frequently. "Now the ideological fights are more about whether it's nicer to go on vacation to (the Baltic Sea islands of ) Rügen (which had been part of East Germany) or Föhr (which had been part of West Germany)."

"Appeals here, parties there. These won't be lacking on Unification Day," wrote the daily Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung on Monday. "Chancellor Angela Merkel has already made her message clear and called for greater willingness in the West for rebuilding in the East. It might sound severe, but she's not going to achieve it," continued the paper. "Why should the citizens do more than Big Daddy State is already doing? For years, the state has been spending billions on pretty facades, which doesn't really improve what's behind them. In any case, the willingness to pay is not going to increase. Considering the higher taxes everywhere, it's more likely to decline."

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