政治文化

The EU’s expansion to the East – The review of a regionen

In May 2004 the European Union was extended from 10 member nations to 25. For Görlitz, the most eastern German city on the Polish border this will mean a lasting change. This filmed report tries to present the mood of the citizens of Görlitz, On one side lies hope and enthusiasm on the other anxiety and reservations.

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Authors: Michael Schulz, Matthias Grüner
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Görlitz lies in the Federal State of Saxony and with a population of 60,000 is the most eastern of German cities. The recent history of this one time Renaissance city is one of living on the border. Before 1945 the river Neisse cut the city into two parts. Since 1945 Zgorzelec, the former eastern part of Görlitz; has been an autonomous Polish city. With re-unification in 1989 and the move towards extending the European Union in the following years Görlitz and Zgorzelec intensified their efforts to grow together once again. Today the city describes itself as the European City Görlitz/Zgorzelec and has taken an exemplary position in cross border co-operation.

These efforts to improve relations with Germany’s national neighbours were given a new impulse on May 1st 2004.

The German attempt to gain the status of City of Culture for Görlitz/Zgorzelec in 2010 emphasises the need to be regarded as a single city. But despite all these efforts for integration the problems still linger. Die Grenzregion weist ihre Probleme hinsichtlich der Bevölkerungsstruktur und der Wirtschaftskraft auf. Innerhalb von 14 Jahren ist die Einwohnerzahl in Görlitz von 73.000 auf unter 60.000 im Jahr 2004 gesunken. Über 10.000 renovierte Wohnungen stehen leer und Unternehmen sehen in der Grenzregion keinen Standortvorteil. Die Arbeitslosenquote liegt bei 26,5 %. Eines der größten Hindernisse in der grenzüberschreitenden Zusammenarbeit stellt mitunter die Sprache und das wirtschaftliche Gefälle zwischen Deutschland und Polen dar.

The border region shows its problems chiefly in population structure and economic force. Within 14 years the population of Görlitz has fallen from 73,000 to 60,000. More than 10,000 renovated apartments stand empty and businesses see no position of advantage in the town. Unemployment stands at 26.5%. One of the greatest obstacles to cross border co-operation is language and the economic decline between Poland and Germany.

In an attempt to counter anxiety and prejudice the community has concentrated on preparing the population for the extension of the European Union. From May 1st 2004 the EU will be extended from 10 nations to 25. The eastern expansion includes Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Malta, Cyprus, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia and Poland. All will become full EU members and European law will apply. But not all conditions will apply. There will be a time for provisional transition. As these new EU countries are not members of Schengener Agreement passports and identity cards will have to be shown by anyone crossing the Görlitz city bridge which will be finished in 2004. This will make harder the attempts by both communities to move closer together, especially as two different currencies will be in use. The big gain is that with their entrance into the EU, customs barriers will fall on trade within the community.

The move towards better understanding and closeness will not be measurably altered but there will be an impetus towards trying harder in the future. Co-operation is currently restricted to about 400 German Polish community activities and with it administrational contact. In the future the impulse to partnership will be given by cross border projects and projects initiated by the people themselves.
Goethe-Institut e. V. 2004
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