Reunification has worked, says Merkel

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The Independent Online

Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, has said unification has been for the most part a success in the past 20 years even though there are major gaps between the east and west.

Ms Merkel, who was raised in Communist East Germany, said in an interview yesterday that many easterners initially felt a certain estrangement in reunited Germany.

"All in all, I'd say the results of 20 years of unification have been for the most part positive," Ms Merkel said ahead of the 20th anniversary of reunification on 3 October. "There are so many eastern success stories."

There are, however, still major gaps between the formerly communist east and the west. Wages in the east are lower, unemployment is higher. The eastern population has shrunk by two million as mostly young people move west in search of jobs.

Some easterners complain westerners treat them like second-class citizens while westerners sometimes moan about ingratitude of easterners and the high unification costs.

"After reunification there was a certain estrangement because everyday life in the east changed completely – everything from the bureaucracy to the job market," Ms Merkel said. "The easterners have accomplished a lot since 1990."

She said she was opposed to extending a "solidarity tax" to help rebuild eastern Germany beyond its projected expiration in 2019 – "even though there are still considerable gaps between the east and west".