The achievements speak for themselves
The achievements, 25 years after reunification, speak for themselves. "Aufbau Ost", the programme to rebuild the east, has been successful all in all, as evidenced by the Annual Report on the Status of German Unity in 2015.
Parallel to the robust development of the economy in general and the labour market, further progress has been made on consolidating the national budget. The level of debt of the six eastern federal states is in fact lower than in comparable states in the west of the country, including Lower Saxony, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland and Schleswig-Holstein. The traffic and transport infrastructure has been completely overhauled, the housing situation has improved tangibly, and the process of urban decay has been halted in inner city areas. The people have also stopped leaving the east to move west: in 2014, for the second year in a row, more people moved to Berlin and the eastern states than moved away. Economically attractive regions and university towns in particular are attracting people.
"Aufbau Ost" has been a success
Since reunification the new federal states in the east have managed to boost their economic performance to a remarkable degree. The real gross domestic product (GDP) which includes all economic output adjusted for inflation has more than doubled since 1991, and is today equivalent to 67 per cent of the level in the west. After the construction boom in the immediate post-reunification phase, the manufacturing and services sectors have emerged as the most important drivers of the east German economy since the mid-1990s.
The situation on the labour market too is rosy: although unemployment is still higher in the east than in the west (9.8 per cent as compared to 6 per cent), the gap is closing. While unemployment in the east was about 10 per cent higher than in the west between 2001 and 2003, by 2014 the unemployment rate in the east was less than 4 per cent higher than in the west. Long-term unemployment in the east also fell by about 37 per cent between 2008 and 2014 and is now at the same level as it is in the west of the country.
Traffic and transport projects completed
The 17 post-reunification traffic and transport projects have, for the most part, been completed. The seven motorway projects have been more or less realised. Of the nine rail projects, six are already in operation. The development of the Hannover – Magdeburg – Berlin waterway is progressing and ought to be completed by 2020.
The budget situation of the eastern states and municipalities, not including city states, is improving steadily. Between 2011 and 2014 these states and municipalities as a whole generated budget surpluses. In 2014 the total budget surplus was a good 1.9 billion euros, or 153 euros per capita. This is an excellent foundation that should enable the eastern states to respect the brake on new debt when the Solidarity Pact expires in 2019, and to balance their budgets as of 2020.
Throughout Germany, reunification is seen in an absolutely positive light: 77 per cent of east Germans and 62 per cent of west Germans state that they have personally experienced the advantages of reunification. The general levels of contentment are also high, at 76 per cent in the east and 83 per cent in the west. This is demonstrated by the study "2014 – 25 Jahre friedliche Revolution" (2014 – the 25th anniversary of the peaceful revolution), commissioned by the Commissioner of the Federal Government for the New Federal States.
The goal is to further eliminate discrepancies
In spite of all the achievements of the last 25 years, there is still work to do to eliminate the last discrepancies between east and west.
Iris Gleicke, Commissioner of the Federal Government for the New Federal States, said that it is quite incredible what has been achieved in twenty-five years. "Today, east Germany is in a good state of health, but there is still a lot to be done. In view of the fact that the east German economy is still trailing the west German one, economic performance in particular must be boosted by promoting investment, innovation and internationalisation." Iris Gleicke pointed out that the harmonisation of pensions laid out in the coalition agreement must go ahead as planned so that social unification in Germany can be finally achieved. As laid out in the coalition agreement, at the end of the Solidarity Pact II, when wages and salaries are harmonised to a greater extent, pensions are to be fully harmonised in one last step.
Focus on structurally weak regions
At the same time the German government is continuing to focus on the development of structurally weak regions in the west of the country.
That is why it intends to present a revised system for the promotion of structurally weak regions throughout Germany when the Solidarity Pact II expires. The aim will be to achieve comparable living conditions everywhere in Germany. When the financing rules on what is the responsibility of federal government and what is to be financed by the federal states are reviewed and revised, one item on the agenda will thus be whether or not the special promotion programmes operating in the new federal states in the east can gradually be transferred to a pan-German promotion system for structurally weak regions, and if so how.
The German government’s aim is still to achieve comparable living conditions across the entire country.
Since 1997 the German government has reported once a year to the German Bundestag on the status of German unity. The report is its response to the request of parliament for regular reports on progress. The latest report will now be submitted to the German Bundestag.