November 9, 2019 marked the 30-year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, reports CNN. Despite reunification in the 1990s, an invisible barrier still exists between eastern and western Germany.
Many East Germans still feel like second-class citizens. Although the wage gap between the two parts of the country has declined in the last 30 years, eastern Germany remains behind the western part of the country when it comes to per capita GDP. According to Berenberg Bank’s chief economist Holger Schmieding, living standards across Germany have equalized, the top-earners and largest corporations remain concentrated in western Germany.
According to The Los Angeles Times, thousands of Germans and international visitors gathered on November 9, at the Brandenburg Gate to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was born in then-East Germany, affirmed in a speech at the gate that the Berlin Wall symbolizes a lesson learned that there are “no walls high enough or wide enough to keep people out or limit freedom that cannot be torn down.” Chancellor Merkel also highlighted the importance of the fight for freedom and democracy.
United States Secretary of State Michael Pompeo also attended the ceremony. He endorsed the diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Germany and highlighted the importance of U.S.-German cooperation in global issues such as the Syrian refugee crisis and nuclear proliferation.
Despite these examples of cooperation, the new world order created by the fall of the Berlin Wall is at risk, reports CNBC. The fall represented an expansion of democratic values, open markets, and globalization. Recent events such as Brexit suggest, however, that the anniversary represents a moment of concern, not celebration. As such, French President Emmanuel Macron told The Economist during an interview, that there are events happening across the globe that were unimaginable five years ago.
Regardless of recent events, a survey from the Forsa polling institute found that most Berliners are glad that the division no longer exists, reports The Guardian. However, 42 percent of people believe the unification happened too quickly.
Many Germans are now returning to the East and reversing the trend of workers moving to the West, reports NBC News. Small towns in eastern Germany are seeking new residents, as there is a shortage of skilled workers and an aging population. According to Germany’s Federal Institute for Population Research, 2017 was the first year in which more people arrived in the East from western Germany than left. The return of these workers comes at a time when small German towns need more workers to help boost economic growth.
In the past, Germany had unifying events to bring Berliners together to celebrate the anniversary of the wall’s fall. Instead, this year there were multiple events across Berlin, many of which displayed artwork that addressed the wall’s construction and its fall. Despite reunification 29 years ago, the country is still trying to mend the split that tore the country in half for most of the Cold War.