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Germany

Berlin and Brandenburg to Merge Justice Systems

Berlin and neighboring Brandenberg have decided to merge their respective higher courts, the first step in a unification of the two German states. Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit and Brandenburg Premier Matthias Platzeck signed an agreement Monday to fuse their respective top administrative, social, tax courts and industrial tribunals by 2007. The states' parliaments must still approve legislative amendments to merge the courts, which could still happen before the summer recess. But opposition politicians in Berlin have protested against Brandenburg's non-negotiable plans to locate the tax court in Cottbus, 130 km (81 miles) southeast of Berlin. The other three courts will be located in Berlin and Brandenburg's capital, Potsdam, 30 km (19 miles) southwest of Berlin. The two states are set to merge their administrations in 2009.