BERLIN (Reuters) – Thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall triggered the events leading to German reunification, Chancellor Angela Merkel said her erstwhile countrymen were still too shy at pushing for career advancement.
Merkel, Germany’s first female leader and also the first to have grown up in the poorer and less developed of the two Germanies, was asked in an interview with Der Spiegel why so few easterners, known as “Ossis”, were in government or corporate leadership roles.
“There are no universities led by an easterner either,” she said on Tuesday. “A real deficit… You just have to be straightforward and clear and sometimes a bit noisy to make a career. I can only encourage us East Germans to do that.”
As Germany gears up to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9, 1989, the eastern part of the country remains poorer and more thinly populated, factors that contributed to electoral gains by the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) at three regional votes this year.
“I know that for many East Germans, life became free but not simpler after the peaceful revolution,” she said. “But you have to be clear: even if you’re not happy with public transport, medical care, the state, or your own life, that doesn’t give a right to hatred and contempt.”
She said that while she as Chancellor had responsibility for all Germans, not just those from the erstwhile dictatorship, there was a need for a better “inner-German dialogue” between the two parts.
(Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Alex Richardson)