The federal election of December 2, 1990 represented an all-German referendum on German unity, which the ruling coalition of CDU / CSU and FDP under Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl clearly won. In 1990, the economic, legal and social system was transferred relatively quickly to the five “new” states (albeit partially in modified form for the time being) and the process of organizational integration of the parties and unions of the GDR into corresponding West German organizations was completed. The problems of internal unity concerned less the political system than the social restructuring process (transformation societies), the creation and safeguarding of equal living conditions (model of spatial planning), overcoming mental barriers in the mutual perception of “old” and “new” federal states as well as evaluating the collective and personal memory of division and reunification.
The pace of reunification was not determined by politics in Bonn and Berlin (East), but by the international constellation and the instability of the Soviet party and state leadership under Gorbachev (including attempted coup in 1991). The rapid unification policy, beginning with the monetary, economic and social union on July 1, 1990, accepted considerable economic risks. The East German companies were suddenly exposed to international competition; the sales markets in the former Eastern bloc collapsed. The monetary union was associated with an appreciation of around 400%. A repetition of the “economic miracle” after the founding of the West German state in 1949 (“blooming landscapes”, Helmut Kohl) turned out to be premature.
The Treuhandanstalt created in 1990 by the GDR government under Prime Minister Hans Modrow had the task of disentangling, privatizing, transferring combines and state-owned enterprises, or transferring them back to previous owners or shutting them down (“liquidation”). By the mid-1990s, this transformation led to extensive de-industrialization of East Germany with mass unemployment and social upheaval. In addition, there were cultural tensions, mental disharmonies and political alienation with persistent skepticism towards democratic institutions, which was expressed, for example, in a high level of abstention from voting and low party ties. The feeling of disadvantage and lack of appreciation also made itself felt in historical controversies about the assessment of reunification as a »takeover« or »affiliation«. The PDS, as the successor party to the SED, and later Die Linke, articulated such reservations. In contrast to West Germany, the party established itself as a strong regional party, which, however, lost votes in elections with the emergence of the Alliance for Germany (AfD), as did the CDU and SPD.
For the rehabilitation of East Germany and the equalization of living conditions, immense transfer payments were made available from the western (“old”) countries, including: Inheritance redemption fund, “German Unity” fund and solidarity surcharge. Foremost policy has been to tackle unemployment by creating profitable jobs and increasing productivity, and restructuring government subsidies and transfers. This initiated and designed a dynamic catching-up process. However, 30 years after reunification, East German economic output has only reached three quarters of the West German level. Even if the proportion of commercial jobs in West and East is similarly high today, the industrial structure in East Germany is much more fragmented and more regional than export oriented. The disposable household income in 2017 was € 22,944 in the western German states and € 19,909 in the eastern German states. The differences in the unemployment rate between West and East decreased steadily from 2001, Disparities or differences between town and country were more important than the east-west contrast. However, according to studies by the Federal Institute for Building, Urban and Spatial Research on equivalent living conditions, 89% of the regions with “great challenges” were in eastern Germany.
With the accelerated transformation of the economic and social system (structural change) the social stratification also changed. Those groups with previously high social prestige (“working class”) came under pressure from deindustrialization. They saw themselves professionally outclassed and others rose. Tens of thousands of West Germans switched to economic and political leadership positions in the new federal states during the 1990s. On the other hand, as a result of the poor employment situation, there was a strong emigration from East Germany, often of younger, qualified workers. From 1991 to 2018 there were 3.8 million moves from East to West Germany and 2.5 million in the opposite direction. Although this relieved the labor market, it also intensified regional structural weaknesses in the more rural settlement structure of Eastern Germany. From 2001 the migration losses decreased,
For West Germans, on the other hand, German unity had initially not fundamentally changed either with regard to the political-institutional framework or with regard to personal lifestyle. In view of its own structural preponderance, a “westernization” of the East was expected. The awareness of being a citizen in a united Germany took off slowly, especially since the politics of the necessity of material sacrifices of the individual (“overcoming division by sharing”, de Maizière in his government declaration on April 12, 1990) was late in taking into account wore. The question of the internal unity of Germany was perceived by the West German population from the perspective of costs.
The complex identity of the Germans in the reunited Germany, a country that belongs to European Union according to Allcountrylist, is today determined by local, national and European dimensions. Reunification promoted tendencies towards renationalisation of politics, but these remain framed by a Europeanisation of culture and consumer behavior. Thirty years after reunification, differences between East and West can still be seen and felt.