'Blooming landscapes' have failed to materialise since unity Nearly 15 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Germany's efforts to rebuild its formerly communist eastern half are being called a failure and a threat to the country's economy. Since German reunification in 1990, there has been massive financial aid from the prosperous west to the poorer east. Although many western Germans have long grumbled over funding a region wracked by 40 years of socialist mismanagement, the aid was never, at least officially, challenged. But that all changed this month, when the findings of a government-appointed commission were leaked to the media. Charged with examining the reconstruction of Germany's five eastern states, the experts, led by former Hamburg mayor Klaus von Dohnanyi, concluded that the estimated 1.25 trillion euros (HK$11.5 trillion) in aid had done little to help the economically depressed region. As if that were not worrying enough, experts fear the 90 billion euros spent by the government each year is also slowly destroying the economy of western Germany, as growth stagnates and the east continues to siphon off vast sums of money. 'If things are allowed to continue as they are, all of Germany will be dragged down,' said Dr von Dohnanyi after the report was made public. Although it will not officially present its recommendations until this summer, Dr von Dohnanyi has called for a major revamp of how aid is distributed in the east and has supported making the region a special economic zone to encourage growth and investment. Few economists would question that eastern Germany is in trouble. Unemployment in the region averages 20 per cent, double that in the west. There is little in the way of an industrial base left and what does remain, lags western productivity levels by a third. Some 2.5 million eastern Germans, mostly the young and educated, have moved to the west looking for a better life, giving up hope that the 'blooming landscapes' promised by former German chancellor Helmut Kohl shortly after unification will ever come. 'These problems can't be solved with money alone,' the premier of the eastern state of Saxony, Georg Milbradt, said. Unfortunately the commission's claim that the rebuilding of the east has been a colossal failure has also created a bitter national debate along the lines of the country's old east-west divide. Many westerners are keen to blame reunification for the many problems plaguing the world's third largest economy. Hit by recession last year, Germany has lagged behind other industrial nations for several years. In an attempt to spark growth, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has begun to take steps to reform the welfare system and rigid labour laws. Yet Mr Schroeder has so far remained cool to suggestions for making the east a special economic zone. This week he even made a quick trip to the region in a likely attempt to point out that not all is as bad as it seems. 'I'd like to see the shipyard,' he said in the port town of Wismar. 'That's truly a perfect example of the recovery in the east.' Despite the chancellor's optimism, many experts expect the enlargement of the European Union on May 1 to increase the pressure on the eastern states since they border Poland and the Czech Republic. 'Things are likely to get much worse over the next 15 years,' said Andreas Mauer from the Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin.