Cracks Appear in East German Government Over Unification
EAST BERLIN (AP) _ Dissension broke out in East Germany’s first democratic government on Friday over the costs of unification with West Germany.
The fragile coalition government of Prime Minister Lothar de Maiziere appeared threatened as the left-leaning Social Democrats attacked what they said was the government’s willingness to agree to West Germany’s terms for unity.
Experts from both countries met in East Berlin on Friday for ongoing talks on shifting East Germany away from a socialist economy as quickly as possible.
Although the Social Democrats agreed to join the government of de Maiziere, who leads the conservative Christian Democrats, they complained Friday that the terms of the economic union would create hardships for East Germans.
The Social Democrats hold important cabinet posts in de Maiziere’s government but have begun distancing themselves from the agreements between the Germanys on merging their economies.
″In the East Berlin Cabinet stands a crack in the house, because we up to now cannot be held responsible for the outcome of the (unification) state treaty,″ said Richard Schroeder, head of the Social Democrat faction in Parliament.
″I am worried about a break in the axle on the way to unity,″ he said.
Social Minister Regine Hildebrandt, a Social Democrat, criticized the decision between the governments to tailor East Germany’s pension program to West Germany’s. She said it would reduce benefits for East Germans.
The economies and social institutions of the two nations are to merge on July 2 as a prelude to full unification next year.
But Social Democrats have become increasingly critical of what they say is a willingness to accept Bonn’s terms and the lack of guarantees to protect East Germans who will give up enormous social subsidies.
De Maiziere, whose party finished first in the March 18 elections, formed a coalition with the Social Democrats to have the two-third Parliament majority needed to make constitutional changes that would make unification possible.
West Germany says a quick move to a free market will create jobs and raise living standards and eventually eliminate the economic hardships that are expected in the early stages of unification.
The dissent in East Germany came as the superpowers, France, Britain and the two Germany states prepared for talks in Bonn on Saturday on the role of a united Germany in the military alliances.
Although the Christian Democrats, who finished first in the March 18 national elections, and the Social Democrats, who finished second, are part of the same government, many of their candidates are facing each other in Sunday’s local elections.
The two governments agreed on the general terms of an economic union on Wednesday. It would exchange salaries, wages and small savings accounts of East Germans for an equal amount of West German marks.
Social Democrats are critical of a provision to keep the debts of East German factories, many of which are expected to fail. They are demanding that the debts be forgiven.
Mrs. Hildebrandt also criticized the pension plan agreement that she said would reduce benefits to a third of the 2.9 million elderly and handicapped participants.
Wolfgang Tierse, deputy chief of the Social Democrats faction, said his party would not endorse the economic and social treaty that is being negotiated as a basis for unification. He said it would bring ″massive poverty.″