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`Germany Can Now Say `No` to the US`

Posted September. 20, 2010 14:42,   


“Japanese? Korean?”

A 60-something man wearing a uniform of the former Soviet Union with a Soviet flag asked this question to a Dong-A Ilbo reporter. It was about two weeks before the 20th anniversary of Germany’s reunification.

He earned money with the ideology of a time before German reunification in front of Brandenburger Gate in Berlin. Charging half to 1 euro for taking pictures with tourists, he declined to identify himself but said he makes 10 to 50 euros per day.

After recognizing the reporter as Korean, he asked how to say “hello” in Korean. The reporter answered, “Annyeong” and the German repeated it several times in showing friendliness. This is a type of customized marketing for tourists.

The “symbol of division” before German reunification has become a “symbol of democracy and capitalism.” While hundreds of tourists visit the site, others hold demonstrations there on issues such as safeguarding minority rights.

The reporter visited the border between Bavaria of the former West Germany and Thuringia of the former East Germany Thursday. The place turned from yellow barren land, where all trees were cut off to prevent East Germans crossing the border, into light green.

Fir trees have also grown to the level of other trees nearby over the past 20 years. The border now seems like a light green band between dark green fir trees.

After reunification, Germany removed 1.3 million land mines and 155 kilometers of barbed wire, but touched nothing else to preserve nature. Two decades later, the nature of the two formerly divided Germanys have reunited by themselves.

The economic gap between both sides has also fallen. The income of East Germany, which was a third or fourth of that of West Germany, has grown to 80 percent. Productivity in East Germany has grown from 20-25 percent to 75-80 percent of that of West Germany.

The unemployment rate in East Germany, which was two to three times that of West Germany, is also dropping.

“Germany can now say ‘no’ to the U.S,” said Karsten Voigt, former chairman of the German-Soviet Friendship Group, to the German Foreign Ministry. “In the past, Germany used to say ‘yes’ to whatever the U.S. said, but this is no longer so.”

Germany now says “yes” only if the U.S. does the right thing. Karsten said, “Germany is now playing a major role in NATO, the EU and the global stage,” and this shows the country’s growing status.

A reunified Germany that achieved both economic success and internal integration is using a louder voice to express its heightened global presence.