Oct 032020

There is this journalist in Slovakia who occasionally sends me questions about the Radical Right and or Germany. It’s one of these wonderful relationships that the internet makes possible: we have never met in person, never even spoken on the phone, but for years we have been swapping messages and ideas.

On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of German unification, he sent me these two. No idea if they ever made it into an article, but I’m currently cleaning out my mailbox and thought I might repost our exchange here.

After 30 years, what is the most positive aspect of Germany reunification, and why, and what really didn’t go that well, and why?

In my view, the most positive aspect is that Germany managed to integrate the population of the former GDR without large-scale social upheaval. Exactly a decade ago, I had the opportunity to talk to an official from the South Korean Ministry for Re-Unification. They were very worried that in the (very unlikely) event of Korean re-unification, unhappy northern soldiers could form a guerilla. While the mode and the outcomes of unification are rightfully controversial in Germany, insurgency was never a concern.

On the other hand, unification was organised as the accession of the GDR to Western Germany. Western Germany stayed very much as it was. Eastern institutions that worked well (most prominently universal state-run child care and public transport) were scaled back massively. Unification tied up so many political and social resources that unified Germany was neither willing nor able to address the shortcomings of the old republic.

From your perspective, what is the most important challenge (except COVID-19) Germany has to face in the foreseeable future?

Germany has managed the integration of the eastern population reasonably well, but it has fallen other West European nations when it comes to integrating the so-called second and third generation of immigrants, let alone those who have arrived more recently. Germany is also trailing many of its neighbours in terms of gender equality. So in my view, 30 years after unification, building a more modern, inclusive and equitable society should be our priority.

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