Postcard from... Berlin


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The Independent Online


It lies near the centre of Berlin, will cover an area the size of 35 football pitches, costs have risen from €720m (£612m) at the outset to a projected €1.5bn, and it is also running late, not least because of obsessive security concerns.

The project in question is the new headquarters of Germany’s foreign intelligence or “BND”, the Teutonic equivalent of Britain’s MI6. The HQ is meant to house some 4,000 spies who will move from the BND’s current base in Munich to Berlin next year. But now the project is being held up by a dispute about what to do in case of fire.

Normally fire brigades are handed the keys to blazing buildings. But the spy chiefs have categorically ruled out this option for the new HQ fearing that foreign agents could infiltrate the fire brigade and use a fire drill to crack all the codes that seal off top secret sections of the building.  “It would be like telling our agents in Russia to stand naked on Red Square and shout here we are!” is how one insider put it.

To solve the problem, in the event of a blaze fire crews will be provided with BND chaperones. But the complex  had better not catch fire until the latter half of next year. It is expected to take that long to train the escorts.