Strategy paper for eastern germany: a fast network for the east

30 years after the fall of the Wall, the CDU and SPD want to promote the east. Why? Three state elections are coming up in the fall.

Will a new federal office soon be created here? Ihlow in the Upper Barnim (Brandenburg) Photo: Simone Kuhlmey

The battle against right-wing populists will be fought not only in the European elections in May, but also in the state elections in the fall in Saxony, Brandenburg and Thuringia. In all three states, the AfD may even become the strongest party. The CDU/CSU and SPD have now set out in papers how they intend to win over voters between Schwedt and Zwickau 30 years after the fall of the Wall. The stakes are high for both parties. The SPD governs in all three states, while the CDU/CSU must keep the AfD at bay in Saxony.

The SPD executive board adopted a 12-point program on Monday. The central demands: After the end of the Soli in 2019, a "new pact for structurally weak regions in the east and west" is to be launched. In addition, more federal institutions are to be located in the east in the future. And the SPD wants to ensure the provision of high-speed Internet "at every milk crate. To this end, "the state must set the standards, not the market.

The paper also calls for a basic pension that is higher than the basic income support and an extension of unemployment benefits (ALG1). The latter is part of the SPD’s strategy of moving away from Hartz IV – as is the demand that the minimum wage be raised to 12 euros. Meanwhile, the right-wing of the party has also taken up this idea.

"Reappraisal, recognition, departure" is the somewhat pedagogical three-step approach with which the SPD wants to hold its own in the East. The continuing imbalance between West and East is to be countered with symbols and money. However, it remains vague how much. The paper lacks concrete details.

"All-German structural support"

Mike Mohring, CDU leader in Thuringia, presented the CDU’s 21-point list of demands for the East in Berlin. "The process of equalization between East and West has come to a standstill in the last 10 years," Mohring said. That is why the CDU also wants fast Internet for eastern provinces and a basic pension ten percent above the basic income level.

The demand that there should be "all-German structural support" after the end of the Soli in 2019 sounds similar. The CDU also wants federal and EU institutions to be located primarily in the east. According to Mohring, the 21-point plan is not intended as a response to the AfD. The intention is to emphasize the party’s own strengths. Concrete figures are also lacking from the CDU.

There are also differences between the two parties’ plans for the east. The SPD, for example, emphasizes the state’s responsibility for fast Internet. The CDU, on the other hand, wants to fight border crime and "stop illegal immigration."

Wolfgang Tiefensee, SPD Thuringia

"The CDU is copying us"

When asked about the programmatic similarities with the CDU, the SPD leadership reacts defensively. Wolfgang Tiefensee, SPD top candidate in Thuringia, emphasizes that one has the copyright on demands such as the hardship fund for pensioners. "The CDU is copying us," Tiefensee said. Dietmar Woidke, SPD premier in Brandenburg, accuses the CDU of clipping history. The CDU paper lacks any self-critical reference to the role of the East CDU in the GDR. And: "We have a tariff wall and a pension wall between East and West. These walls must also come down," Woidke said.

SPD leader Andrea Nahles also believes that wages are the key difference between the SPD and the CDU. The CDU/CSU "does not make a clear statement" on the 12-euro minimum wage and longer unemployment benefits (ALG1). However, the SPD confines itself to appealing for more collective agreements in the east. It is also noteworthy that the SPD demands the increase of the minimum wage only with one restriction: It should rise "in perspective to 12 euros." Apparently a concession to the situation in the east, where wage levels are still lower than in the west.