Cyprus Reunification – German Reunification
A similar Thing?
By Ralph Kratzer
Against the background of the reunification talks in Cyprus, I, as a German, have some deeper thoughts.
Germany was a separated country since the end of World War 2. The victorious powers (United Kingdom, France, the Soviet Union and the United States) divided the nation into 2 parts. This condition was to last for 45 years.
During this period, 2 completely different countries and therefore different mentalities among the inhabitants developed.
With the reunification the German people should have become one nation again. But was that really successful? Here are some facts from the web about the German reunification process:
The German reunification was the process in 1990 in which the German Democratic Republic (GDR/East Germany) joined the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG/West Germany) to form the reunited nation of Germany, and when Berlin reunited into a single city.
The East German [communist] regime started to falter in May 1989, when the removal of Hungary’s border fence opened a hole in the Iron Curtain [strictly monitored border between the Western and Eastern bloc of nations]. It caused an exodus of thousands of East Germans fleeing to West Germany and Austria via Hungary. The Peaceful Revolution, a series of protests by East Germans, led to the GDR’s first free elections on 18 March 1990, and to the negotiations between the GDR and FRG that culminated in a Unification Treaty. Other negotiations between the GDR and FRG and the four occupying powers produced the so-called “Two Plus Four Treaty” (Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany) granting full sovereignty to a unified German state, whose two parts had previously still been bound by a number of limitations stemming from their post-World War II status as occupied regions.
The united Germany is considered to be the enlarged continuation of the Federal Republic and not a successor state. As such, it retained all of West Germany’s memberships in international organizations including the European Community (later the European Union) and NATO, while relinquishing membership in the Warsaw Pact and other international organizations to which only East Germany belonged.
Under the treaty mentioned above the last Allied forces still present in Germany left in 1994.
The subsequent economic restructuring and reconstruction of eastern Germany resulted in significant costs, especially for western Germany, which paid large sums of money in the form of a “Solidarity Surcharge” [additional tax on income of the German population] in order to rebuild the east German infrastructure. Peer Steinbrück, the Social Democrat candidate for the German chancellorship, is quoted as saying in a speech to the German parliament some years ago, “Over a period of 20 years, German reunification has cost 2 trillion euros, or an average of 100 billion euros a year.”
Vast differences between the former East Germany and West Germany in lifestyle, wealth, political beliefs, and other matters remain, and it is therefore still common to speak of eastern and western Germany distinctly. The eastern German economy has struggled since unification, and large subsidies are still transferred from west to east. The former East Germany area has often been compared to the underdeveloped Southern Italy and the Southern United States during reconstruction after the American Civil War. While the East German economy has recovered recently, the differences between East and West remain present. “The process of German unity has not ended yet”, proclaimed Chancellor Angela Merkel, who grew up in East Germany, in 2009.
Mrs. Merkel was right. Today, in 2015 – 25 years after the German reunion – still not a lot has changed in the inner relations between the former 2 parts of Germany and its inhabitants, although they speak the same language, share the same history (before 1945), have the same religion and culture, and what is even more important, the Germans were never 2 different ethnic groups, mutually using violence against the others. In foreign policy Germany may act as a unified nation, but internally the East and West Germans are still divided.
In retrospect many Germans think, it would have been better if the two states had approached slowly and cautiously in the economic, political and social areas. But the then Western German head of State Helmut Kohl wanted to be remembered in the history books as chancellor of reunification. That has succeeded, no doubt, but not all Germans love him for this.
Of course I ask myself, looking at the reunification talks in Cyprus now, what will happen over here when the time comes to be one nation again? I know many locals saying “we are first of all Cypriots, not Greeks or Turks”…
This is true on one side, but when I look at the opinions and utterances of some politicians, representatives of political parties or non-governmental organizations on both sides, the gap between Turkish and Greek Cypriots is bigger than ever before. In large parts of the population there still is great distrust of the other ethnic group.
In my view, only mental processing of history on both sides, mutual respect and esteem for the individuals and the property can achieve any constant success in Cyprus.
By the way, did you know the fact that following German unification in 1990 more than 66% of German property claims were settled through compensation at half of the market value of claimed properties based on the principle that losses of the war had to be shared by all Germans (“burden sharing” and “equalization of loss” principles). Compensation payments were made over a 20 to 30 year period from funds at low interest rates facilitated by the German Government.