The day of German division

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The Saxonian town of Görlitz or the Hansa-city WIsmar may both look very nice and Berlin has mainly become a single city again since the Wall fell, but the East has remained the East and the West has remained the West in wallets, minds and politics alike.

East Germans still earn less then West Germans, face higher unemployment, none of the leading German companies have their headquarters in the East and only a single team from the former Eastern states – Leipzig – is in the 18-strong Bundesliga.

All the while, one out of five Germans live in these Eastern parts. So much for the material part of it. And as for what is in the heads: the recent events on Chemnitz or Köthen, the attacks on journalists in Sachsen Anhalt and the surprising popularity of the anti-migration Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the East has left most West Germans baffled.

Proportionally, there are much less migrants in the Eastern states than in the Western ones. After Chemnitz, analysts are beginning to say that Saxonia is more like Poland or Hungary than the West.

On the Day of German Unity – with the risk of being a spoilsport – we must mention that this is also the day of German division. Where is the leading power of the European Union headed nowadays? Will it be drifting towards the May European elections together with the EU in dire need of overhaul?

Standing (or rather slumping) in front of us is a Chancellor Merkel, who for the past year has surreptitiously made two types of moves: revolving around her own axis in tiny steps, giving up her previous pro-migrant stance and bowing to much-maligned populism in an attempt to regain at least some of her former popularity.

The other movement she is capable of is a continuous slide on a downward slope. The parties of her ruling coalition are in bad shape headed towards regional elections in Bavaria and Hessen in October.

There are growing calls for the resignation of Merkel, but she is not the only one in this position. Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who has never won any meaningful direct election in his life, in a departure from the script, went out against Viktor Orbán in a speech, questioning the very existence of illiberal democracy.

People like him are afraid of popular support: they are both resentful of the successes of the leaders they are unable to emulate and very much afraid that their example will catch on.

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