Postcard from... Berlin


Click to follow
The Independent Online


Tony Blair may now be regarded as the figurehead of a belligerent-yet-bygone British political era, but much to the chagrin of car drivers and hospital patients, his mark remains ever present in Berlin.

In 2003, Mr Blair’s decision to join George Bush in his war against Saddam Hussein prompted Gerhard Schröder’s anti- Iraq war German government to insist that bollards be installed in front of the British embassy to deter terrorist attacks. Both have remained in force for over a decade.

Wilhelmstrasse, the street on which Berlin’s UK embassy stands, is no ordinary thoroughfare. For centuries it served as an important north-south axis close the city’s  landmark Brandenburg Gate.

Since 2003 motorists have been obliged to take a complicated detour around a section of the historic Wilhelmstrasse to avoid the bollards. Traffic jams are often the result. Berlin’s main Charite hospital complains that the bollards block direct access for ambulances.

But the first of Mr Blair’s bollards may soon be removed. Berlin’s politicians are negotiating with Angela Merkel’s Interior Ministry to try to get the Wilhelmstrasse reopened. “The threat faced by British citizens abroad is no longer quite so great,” one Berlin city spokesman said.