Eastern Germany Ten Years After Unification

in German Politics and Society
Thomas ErtmanNew York University

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On October 3, 1990 the territory of the German Democratic Republic was incorporated into the Federal Republic of Germany, thereby ending forty-five years of German division. At the time, assessments varied widely about whether the wholesale introduction of the West German political, legal, and socioeconomic systems into the formerly communist east would be a success, and what the implications of success or failure would be for the new united Germany. Ten years later, opinions on these fundamental questions remain divided. One group of optimistic observers maintains that the full integration of the east into an enlarged Federal Republic is well underway, though these observers acknowledge that progress has been slower and more uneven than first anticipated. A more pessimistic assessment is provided by those who claim that, if the present pattern of development continues, the east will remain in a position of permanent structural weakness vis-à-vis the west in a way analogous to that of Italy’s Mezzogiorno.

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