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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 May, 2003, 12:11 GMT 13:11 UK
Germany 'fixed' economic report
German sign
Germany's economy is struggling
The German government has been accused of pressuring the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to soften a critical report on the country's economy.

The OECD, a club of 30 industrialised nations including the US and the UK, is quoted by German business daily Handelsblatt as confirming that changes were made to the report.

Handelsblatt published excerpts of what it claims was the first draft of the report, and said the final version shows a softening of language criticising the economic convergence between former East and West Germany.

It quoted OECD economist Patrick Lenain as saying the assessment released in December was "the most critical country report in a long time".

Sections calling for further loosening of Germany's labour market and a restructuring of its pension system were also rewritten.

Official German data show the economy, the biggest in the eurozone, contracted in the first three months of 2003, after stagnating the in final quarter of last year.

Unprecedented leak

An OECD source told BBC News Online that it is usual for the first draft to be substantially rewritten in consultation with the government before it is published, adding that "whole chapters sometimes disappear".

A first draft has never been leaked before, to the knowledge of the source, and the feeling within the OECD is that its "trustworthiness" has been undermined.

The source said the OECD does not keep copies of first drafts and so cannot even verify if the claims made by Handelsblatt are true.

Handelsblatt quotes an unnamed OECD source as claiming that Germany applied pressure "in a way I've never experienced in the past".

"You got the impression that Germany was trying to suppress the most important things via a whole range of changes in detail," the newspaper quoted the OECD source as saying.

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