Five Years Later, Unity Of Germany Sinks In

AS celebrations of national holidays go, Germany's Unity Day, Oct. 3, lacks the fireworks of France's Bastille Day, say, or the Fourth of July.

The five-year mark for reunification has been an occasion for evaluating where Germany and the Germans are, with one another and with their partners in the European Union and NATO.

''In 1989 and afterward, Germans have given the lie to fears of a resurgence of German nationalism,'' German President Roman Herzog said in an Oct. 1 speech in Weimar on the occasion of reunification.

He added that West Germans remain ready to support their compatriots to the east, in the ''new federal states,'' that is, the former East Germany.

Germans would love to see the disappearance of the ''solidarity surcharge'' they have been paying to finance reunification, however. In Weimar, Chancellor Helmut Kohl said it wasn't yet clear when this may happen. ''We've managed much, but not yet all.''

Are we one yet?

Do Germans really feel themselves to be one people yet? Kurt Biedenkopf, governor of the ''new'' state of Saxony, has pointed out that more eastern Germans are seeing themselves simply as ''Germans.''

In 1990, a poll found that 66 percent of eastern Germans described themselves as ''East Germans '' and only 28 percent felt simply ''German.''

Two years later, the numbers were 54 and 45 percent, respectively. By 1994, 36 percent identified as ''East Germans;'' 61 percent as ''German.''

Another statistical point: The birthrate in eastern Germany fell steeply (by 60 percent) between 1989 and 1993, the largest such drop in the industrial world, comparable only to that of Berlin between 1942 and 1946. But now the eastern German birthrate is on the rise - clearly a sign of hope for the future.

The near-term outlook for Germany's relationships with its neighbors in the European Union is a little less serene. One major question for the EU, analysts say, is this: Will it achieve monetary union through a common set of economic policies, or through the strict polices the Germans insist on?

German Finance Minister Theo Waigel caused an uproar some days back by dismissing Italy's prospects of taking part in the monetary union.

On the eve of the Sept. 30 to Oct. 1 meeting of EU finance ministers in Valencia, Spain, former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt thundered a warning in the weekly Die Zeit that ''deutsche-mark nationalis'' is endangering the monetary union.

This, in turn, endangers the EU as a whole and risks turning it into merely a free-trade zone.

That would be bad for Germany, Mr. Schmidt's argument continues: The country's future lies in a well-integrated Europe of which Germany is a member, not a Europe in which Germany and the deutsche mark are so dominant as to arouse neighbors' concerns and envy.

A characteristic approach for peaceful postwar Germany: to seek safety within institutions that will contain its strength.

The ministers left Valencia smiling in announced unanimity over the strict ''convergence criteria'' Germany has sought. But this may not be the end of the matter.

Another institution in which Germany seeks to contain its strength is NATO. Of all the decisions that made swift and easy reunification possible, perhaps the most significant was that of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to allow a reunified Germany to remain within this alliance.

New role for military?

And after years of understandable hesitancy over deploying troops off its own soil, Bonn is moving gingerly toward new ''out of area'' activities.

As plans are being made for NATO to enforce a peace accord in Bosnia, ''I personally have no doubt Germany will be there,'' Charles Redman, the US ambassador here, told an audience in Bonn recently.

The nature of that involvement is not at all clear. But, said Ambassador Redman, it's no longer true, in international crises, ''that Germany 'can't do anything.' ''

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