For Germans, Integration Tops Agenda

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

FOR Germany, 1991 will be the year of getting down to work. It will be the year to put the grand plans of integration, both German and to some extent European, into practice. In eastern Berlin, this means painstakingly tracing property ownership so that investors can put down roots there.

In the southeast corner of Germany, in Dresden, it means finally rebuilding the sewage treatment plant so that the Elbe River isn't forced to absorb a third year of untreated human waste.

In Bonn, it means deciding what Germany really wants from European monetary and economic union.

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Working out details can be difficult, as this year is likely to show.

It is generally accepted that the economy in eastern Germany - the country's biggest challenge - has farther to fall.

``We haven't reached the low point yet,'' says Claudia W"ormann a specialist in eastern Germany's economy at the Association for German Industry in Cologne.

The number of unemployed and reduced-hours workers has reached 2.3 million in former East Germany (out of a work force of roughly 8 million). Some economists are predicting 3 million or more this year.

Although 50 percent of industry in western Germany plans to invest in eastern Germany, the details of it all have held them up. The legal framework for buying property has been established, for instance, but getting clear title is practically impossible. Deed books lie decayed in the cellars of government buildings, are missing, altered, or have not been kept up to date.

``We have 150 firms ready to invest in our area, but they're blocked by property,'' says Martin Federlein, the deputy mayor for the neighborhood of Pankow in eastern Berlin. He hopes to find clear title to a fourth of Pankow's properties by this March, but says he lacks staff and expertise.

Another far-from-minor detail blocking investment is the telephone. Last spring, when normal lines were jammed between the two Germanys, businesses took to mobile phones, especially in Berlin. Now the mobile phone network is overloaded. Offices in the eastern and western parts of the country fax each other in the middle of the night. Or, in a few cases, they call runners at the edges of the old border who shuttle between phones on either side of the dismantled frontier.

The Bundespost, however, is working out the details as fast as a government-owned, telecommunications giant can. It has enlisted the help of the Army and of private industry in building the telephone system in eastern Germany - which won't match that in the west until 1996 or '97.

Despite this dismal picture, economist W"ormann is optimistic. She says Germany will reach, and begin to climb out of the economic valley this year. ``Some areas are already moving upward,'' she says, such as the service sector and construction industry.

``There will be a steep increase in investment this year,'' according to Ms. W"ormann, who estimates a flow of about 7 billion marks ($4.5 billion) in 1991 compared with about 3 billion marks in 1990 ($1.9 billion). The fact that there are local governments in place in eastern Germany helps, she adds. ``There is someone there to give out permits!''

LAST year, reunification was the only theme on the German agenda. But the environment is expected to return to the headlines this year, given the Herculean cleanup job to be done in eastern Germany.

``Rehabilitation of the five new German states is our highest priority,'' says Berthold Goeke, an Environment Ministry spokesman. More than 9 million people in eastern Germany are serviced with polluted drinking water; 6 million breath unsafe levels of sulfer-dioxide; only one of eastern Germany's 11,000 household garbage dumps meets the standard of western Germany.

Several emergency measures were taken last year have resulted in substantial improvements. The most common step was simply to close plants that were horrendous polluters and that had no hope of being modernized.

The Environment Ministry has meanwhile set 1996 as the year when smokestack emissions must meet western German standards. It has also shut down all nuclear plants in eastern Germany, though construction of new plants (still according to the Soviet model) continues.

Another theme likely to dominate Germany's political agenda is the task of integration - within its own country and within Europe.

At home, this means pulling up the standard of living in eastern Germany fast enough to avoid social unrest. Within the European Community (EC), it means moving ahead on monetary and political union.

German Chancellor Helmut Kohl is especially eager to see eastern and western Europe integrated. He favors associate membership in the EC for Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Hungary. Early this year, Germany will sign treaties with Czechoslovakia and Poland, covering cultural, political, and economic cooperation.

It's in Germany's interest to contribute to stability in eastern Europe - above all, in the Soviet Union. Some analysts here forecast that up to 20 million people could move to the West if the Soviet and Eastern European economies collapse.

Germans are especially concerned about Soviet instability because 380,000 Soviet soldiers and their families are parked on German soil until 1994.

THE Germans assured the Americans last summer that stronger ties to the east, reunification, and European unity would not impair Bonn-Washington relations. But events may not bear this out.

Washington had hoped that Mr. Kohl would take a leadership role and move Europe toward a compromise on farm issues in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade talks. Instead, Kohl sided with France, saying at the EC summit last month: ``What I do not accept at all is that Germany has a leadership function.''

It will be interesting to see this year when Kohl gives the Germans a ``leadership function'' and when he doesn't. He's been claiming that he wants to change the German Constitution to allow out-of-NATO-area deployment of German troops. The discussion, of course, began over the Gulf crisis and complaints from Washington that the Germans aren't doing enough to contribute.

The constitutional change is expected to come up in the Bundestag early this year. But if it is indeed made, it could be very restrictive. One proposal is to allow German troops to participate only in United Nations peacekeeping forces. Within NATO territory, Turkey has asked Germany to send 18 planes as part of a NATO rapid deployment force to defend against Iraqi attack.

In a recent article that points with concern to inconsistency in German foreign policy and a ``quiet drift'' in United States-German relations, Thomas Kielinger, editor of the German Weekly Rheinischer Merkur, writes: ``With an expression of innocence on its face, Germany vows purity of its policy by pointing to its readiness to work in a team, its readiness for integration....

``Sometimes,'' he continues, ``we take the side of progress when it is headed toward a `German model' (Europe); sometimes we support the smallest common denominator (agricultural subsidies); and sometimes we just abandon integration (Gulf, `crisis participation' generally). This is not a good recommendation for an emerging responsible policy.''

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