“Aufbau Ost was a West German project” – expert on elite exchange after 1990


The new “East Commissioner” of the federal government, Marco Wanderwitz, recently discovered that many East German top jobs are occupied by West Germans. Sputnik spoke to Petra Erler, State Secretary in the last GDR government and employee of the EU Commission, about the causes of the situation and the consequences.

Miss Dr. Erler, the Federal Government’s new “East Commissioner”, Marco Wanderwitz, found in an interview published on Tuesday that East Germans are underrepresented in East German leadership jobs. He relates this primarily to the civil service. How do you rate that?

Mr. Wanderwitz is not the first to speak this truth. The train was put on the wrong track with the way of German unification. In 1990 it was already clear that more than an elite exchange was politically desirable. Just as in the process of German unification the German government under Helmut Kohl in 1990 naturally thought that it could speak for only one democratically elected government of the GDR in international contexts, so the development of the East German states became a West German project. Not even a government in Brandenburg under Manfred Stolpe, which in contrast to Saxony and Thuringia started with an East German prime minister, has evaded this. And the way it looks today in East German administrations also looks international: after 1990, young, unstressed East Germans have rarely been able to help shape the European and international face of the new Federal Republic of Germany. After 1990, the Americans were the only ones who insisted a few years that East Germans are also on the transatlantic committees. Then that went well.

Mr. Wanderwitz said: “When it comes to court presidents, heads of tax offices or university rectors, there is no viable reason after 30 years why the lack of representation of East Germans continues.” But what are the reasons and causes for this? that it is so? Is that just because the elites are self-recruiting, as Wanderwitz thinks?

The fewest who came to East Germany from West Germany after 1990 were part of the elite. Those who occupied the administrative hierarchies were often only speakers in their former West German life. Building up the east, gilded with the “bush allowance” was a career opportunity for her. Now, promotion does not automatically go hand in hand with an increase in intelligence, and such people have been careful to ensure that their positions are not endangered. Then you just check what’s coming from your own stable. Because the peaceful revolution in autumn 1989 hadn’t just swept away the GDR. She also demonstrated that people were willing to courageously take their fate into their own hands. The new Federal Republic did not want to have that much courage.

You were State Secretary in the last GDR government. What experience have you had with the elite exchange in East Germany after October 3, 1990?

I was very lucky because the former Permanent Representative of the Federal Republic of Germany to the GDR and the UN Ambassador, Hans-Otto-Brautigam, literally took me under his wing. He believed in me and trusted me. That was much more than many of my countrymen have ever had.

The “East Commissioner” now thinks that in the case of disproportionality “if we have the same qualification, we have to take the one from Mecklenburg and not the one from Bavaria” and at the same time speaks out against an “East Quota”.

Rate? No. But I would like an annual political balance sheet for the public about the filling of managerial positions in the public administration, among the judges, the rectors, the DAX board members and so on. So that it comes into the bright light of the public. East Germans have to make their choice. I don’t know anyone who would even consider an East German candidate for prime minister in West Germany. As long as the “Ossis” is acceptable, nothing changes.

Dr. Petra Erler grew up in East Germany, in Thuringia. She studied foreign trade and worked in the area. In 1984 she became a political scientist. After the first free and democratic elections in the GDR in March 1990, she first worked in the GDR foreign ministry as an adviser to the minister and a member of the planning staff and became state secretary in the office of prime minister in June, responsible for European issues. After October 3, 1990, she worked briefly as an assistant to a member of the German Bundestag and then as head of the European Policy Unit at the Brandenburg Representation to the Federal Government. In 1999 she moved as a member of Commissioner Günter Verheugen’s cabinet to the European Commission in Brussels. In April 2006 she became head of cabinet and remained in this position until the end of the term of office of the EU Commission in February 2010. In April 2010, she founded the consulting company “European Experience Company“In Potsdam.


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