East Germans form a protection movement

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The Independent Online
IN WHAT was interpreted as a slap in the face for all German political parties, a group of almost 70 leading east German politicians, intellectuals and media personalities joined forces over the weekend to launch a new movement aimed at articulating the anxieties of east Germans following unification.

The movement, the brainchild of East Germany's last interior minister, Peter-Michael Diestel, called for the formation of 'committees of justice' throughout the region. The committees, which aim to be cross-party, would serve as forums for east Germans.

Many east Germans feel like 'second-class citizens' in the united country, according to a statement issued by the movement's founders. Gregor Gysi, leader of the reformed PDS Communist Party and co-signatory of the statement, said east Germans have become a disadvantaged minority; the committees could serve as 'a form of protection'.

Although those behind the movement - including the writer Stefan Heym - denied ambitions of wanting to become a political party, the statement issued at Saturday's launch in Berlin said the committees aimed to gain 'the authority of a control and initiative organ'.

The idea of forming a specifically east German pressure group was first aired by Mr Diestel after he resigned as parliamentary leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in the eastern state of Brandenburg following a row with Ulf Fink, the west German overall leader of the Brandenburg CDU.

With more than a million east Germans unemployed and many fearful of losing their homes to west Germans who have reclaimed them, Mr Diestel's call for east Germans to stand up for themselves quickly bore fruit. Recent opinion polls show that most people in the region do not believe that the main political parties are in touch with their concerns or able to represent their interests sufficiently in Bonn.

Manfred Stolpe, the Social Democrat prime minister of Brandenburg, described the movement's launch as the 'last warning' to the Bonn politicians and advised them not to dismiss it as 'a reckless adventure' by a group of failed politicians.

In Bonn itself, Peter Hintze, general secretary of Chancellor Helmut Kohl's Christian Democrats, described the new movement as a 'successor organisation of yesterday's suppressors,' and said that, if it did become a party, Mr Diestel would be thrown out of the CDU immediately.

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