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Saturday, September 23, 2023

31 years later, German unification incomplete, Merkel says

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Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday that Germans must keep working for democracy, as the country celebrated the 31st anniversary of the reunification of East and West.

In what is expected to be one of her last major speeches, the outgoing chancellor said that “mentally and structurally, unification hasn’t been completed yet.”

Three decades on, there remains a political and economic divide between Germany’s formerly communist east and the west. The difference was illustrated in last month’s national election, where the far-right Alternative for Germany party captured 16 constituencies in the east even as its overall share of the vote dropped across the country.

Merkel said the disinformation and incitement observed in public debate were an attack on democracy, adding that its achievement should not be taken for granted.

“Democracy isn’t simply there,” she told an audience in the eastern city of Halle. “Rather, we must work for it together, again and again, every day.”

Merkel cited the killing of one of her party’s regional politicians, the assault on Halle’s synagogue, and the recent fatal shooting of a gas station clerk who asked someone to wear a mask as examples of verbal attacks leading to radicalization in German society.

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