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Germany

Germany in Brief

Berlin's opera houses are saved from closure; Chancellor Schröder answers to election fraud; former Chancellor Helmut Kohl admits to having made mistakes with reunification.

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Thanks to a hefty financial rescue plan, Berlin's Staatsoper and two other operas can stay open.

Berlin rescues opera houses

The German government said on Wednesday it had agreed to extra funds to stop the curtain from falling on one of Berlin's three opera houses threatened with closure in the cash-strapped capital. In the last 13 years since German reunification, the city’s cultural institutions have lost much of their generous state subsidies. Speaking at a press conference, State Minister for Media and Culture Christina Weiss said she'd earmarked 25 million euros to help keep all three Berlin operas open. "Berlin can keep its three opera houses," she said. "Despite the really precarious budgetary position that you are all aware of, the federal government has found a way to keep culture in the capital city safe from harm."

Schröder called to task on election scandal

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder will have to answer to accusations of election fraud in the parliament’s investigative committee Thursday evening. The opposition Christian Democrats and Christian Social Union claim the chancellor and his government of Social Democrats knowingly deceived the public about the catastrophic state of the German economy during last year’s federal elections. The committee was called into existence late last year after CDU party leaders insisted that Schröder and Finance Minister Hans Eichel had held back information on the country’s dire financial situation with its mounting federal budget and crumbling welfare system in order not to jeopardize their reelection chances. So far the controversial committee has heard testimony from representatives across the government including the finance and social ministries. Thursday’s hearing of Schröder marks the end of the investigations and was preceded by the release of previously "secretive" documents from the chancellor’s office on Wednesday.

Helmut Kohl admits to "freewheeling" in reunification

Speaking at Landau University on Wednesday, former German chancellor Helmut Kohl admitted he made mistakes in Germany's reunification process. "I didn't realize to what extent East and West had grown apart in many areas of life," he said. The longest-serving head of state in post-war Europe, Kohl said he never had a "masterplan," nor any historic precedent to refer to. "There was no 'before'," he said at the gathering. "We were freewheeling." He concluded that despite mistakes, reunification was one of the greatest achievements in German history. Many Germans believe that Helmut Kohl was the country's most successful chancellor. During his 16 years in power he presided over Germany's unification – his finest hour – and became a driving force behind European integration.

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