Indebted cities in western Germany, which continue to pay “solidarity” money to their Eastern counterparts more than 20 years after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, want to do away with the arcane pact, claiming the payments are no longer justified, The Telegraph reports.As per the Solidarity Pact II Program, federal, state, and local governments, regardless of their financial situation, must contribute to a fund for East German states and cities. The current pact, which is slated to run from 2005 to 2019, is set to give East Germany a windfall of €156 billion ($206 billion), according to the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung (SZ).
The aim of the pact had been to raise the standards of infrastructure in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) to western standards, according to Spiegel Online. Consequently, the East now boasts modern motorways, shopping malls and refurbished town centres.
But now, many western towns are trying to balance their budgets while still making payments to the East. “The East is in the meantime so well positioned that they don’t know where to put their money. At home in the Ruhr area everything is falling apart,” Ullrich Sierau, the mayor of Dortmund, told SZ.
Only eight of the 400 municipalities in the largest western state of North-Rhine Westphalia have a balanced budget. Essen is €2.1 billion ($2.8 billion) in debt – a third of which is due to its solidarity pact contributions. Duisburg has borrowed €500,000 ($662,000) over the past few years to pay its share, and Oberhausen, the most indebted city in Germany, had to borrow €270 million ($357 million) for payments.
But Armin Laschet, deputy leader of the ruling Christian Democratic Union in the state’s parliament, told Deutschlandfunk radio that the pact could only be discussed after 2019, and in the long-term, money should be spent according to need, not “according to geography”.
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