Postcard from... Berlin


She may be a conservative Christian Democrat, but Angela Merkel enjoys being described as the “greenest” Chancellor the Germans have ever had. The reputation does not stem entirely from her post-Fukushima policy U-turn which prompted her to announce an abrupt end to German nuclear power.

Even before becoming Chancellor, Ms Merkel is said to have been so fastidious about energy saving that she changed every light bulb in her Berlin apartment to ensure they were of the sort that consumed minimal power. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the German capital’s new airport in waiting – the disaster prone and still inoperative Berlin Brandenburg International. Originally scheduled to open in June last year, the multi-billion euro project is so fraught with technical problems, design errors and construction blunders that nobody can predict a realistic date for the first take-off or landing.

The taxpayers are expected to pick up a massive bill in the region of €4.3bn when it is finally finished. But the true gravity of the situation was underlined this week with the news that the airport management is incapable of turning off the hundreds of arc lights which burn outside the main terminal building 24/7.

Horst Amann, the airport’s browbeaten technical director, confessed: “It has to do with the fact that we haven’t progressed far enough with our lighting system to be in a position to control it.” It sounds like a challenge for the “green Chancellor” who faces a general election this year. There are rumours that she may have to be called in to lead the hunt for the airport light switch.