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1. The Consultation Process - 1.1 Times of change and renewal


(35) On the threshold of a new millenium Germany, Europe, and all industrialised and developing countries are in the grip of rapid and profound change, not to say upheaval. German unification, the process of European integration, the end of the post-war East-West conflict, the pace of technological progress and the expansion of modern information, communication and transport technologies are giving rise to developments with unforeseeable consequences. International interdependence is increasing, likewise the global integration of markets and the global exchange of goods, capital and services; competition is becoming fiercer. Then there are demographic and social shifts accompanying global mass migration, the aging of industrialised societies, the individualisation of ways of life and diversification of life-styles. All that calls for continual and sometimes painful adaptation.

(36) The many changes and upheavals affect almost all areas of life, in some way or other. They are linked with future opportunities but have also led to problems and difficulties for many people. They make it necessary to examine the tenability of previous customs, convictions and seeming facts of life - at the German, European and global level. Although united, the former East and West Germany are still far from being properly joined. As the necessary adjustment of living conditions continues, the question is how to further develop the market economy with its social and ecological commitments. What reforms are necessary to overcome the sustained unemployment and preserve the social security system? To what extent will it take a fundamental change of heart and direction to meet the challenges of the future? The task at the European level is that of deepening economic integration through monetary union, strengthening common domestic, legal, foreign and security policies and completing European union in the political sphere. At the same time, the idea and practice of securing peace by political integration, developed in the last 40 years in western Europe, has to prove itself in central and eastern Europe. This involves the readiness to support these countries as far as possible in their difficult transformation into states based on freedom, democracy and the market economy. Finally, what is needed at the global level is a sustainable order based on solidarity and justice. This has to be created in common responsibility and partnership. Such an order must be equipped to deal with current and foreseeable changes for the benefit of all and to facilitate sustainable development, not least in the poor countries.

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