German reunification is now 33 years old. East and West have been united longer than Berlin was divided by the Wall, but every year around this time and on the occasion of National Day, October 3, reports on the state of the union are published. The results are almost always the same: there is still much to do.
The annual report of the Federal Government Commissioner for East Germany, Carsten Schneider (SPD), states that the structural differences between East and West Germany have been reduced or disappeared, but the truth is that in East Germany 40% of the population explicitly identify as “East Germans” and only 52% as “Germans”. In West Germany, on the other hand, 76% consider themselves “German” and only 18% “West German.” Almost half of East Germans feel like “second-class citizens.”
The same is because an average household in West Germany has a net worth of 127,900 euros and in East Germany only 43,400 euros, according to data from the Bundesbank. Or because the average old-age pension paid after 40 or more years of insurance in the eastern states of Germany at the end of 2022 was 1,329 euros per month and in the western states it was 1,499 euros. Or why About four million East Germans were forced to emigrate in the last ten years to the former federal territory, to seek better opportunities, while 2.8 million moved in the opposite direction. Or because the proportion of people over 65 years of age is 22% in the cities of eastern Germany and 27% in rural regions, while the proportion of people of working age is 62% in cities in the west and the 57% in rural areas.
Yes, the federal states that were once part of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) are depopulated, impoverished and aging. They have Berlin left, but the governments that have shared power all these years have been so inefficient that they even lead to glory that the capital is “poor but sexy”or that appears in headlines as the “capital of bungling”, of the “absolute failure of its administrations”, the “redoubt of the analogue era”.
In Berlin, digitalization is like buying books by the meter to decorate the bookshelf. In the municipal district offices it still works by fax. There are currently 5,333 devices in service, and thank goodness because the computer programs that should replace them either do not work or do not talk to each other.