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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 October, 2004, 09:49 GMT 10:49 UK
Germany rejects 'goosestep' image
Joschka Fischer and Tony Blair
Mr Fischer says the UK's image of Germany is unrecognisable
Germany's foreign minister has urged British people to change their out-of-date opinion of his country.

Joschka Fischer believes the negative view many Britons - especially young people - have of Germany is harming relations between the two nations.

He said the media was largely to blame for continuing an image of Germany as the land of the "Prussian goosestep".

Mr Fischer said UK television shows portrayed a Germany its people "have never seen in their whole lifetimes".

If you want to learn how the traditional Prussian goosestep works, you have to watch British television
Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer

He told the BBC: "Germany has changed in a dramatic, positive way.

"Today this is a democracy. Two or three generations have grown up as real democrats.

"If you want to learn how the traditional Prussian goosestep works, you have to watch British television because in Germany in the younger generation - even my generation - nobody knows how to perform it."

Mr Fischer said official relations between Germany and the UK were excellent, but "people to people there is a problem and I think the media are playing an important role".

He urged more school exchange visits to boost young people's understanding of each other's cultures.

Mr Fischer said his children, aged 20 and 25, were puzzled by Germany's portrayal on British television and in the press.

"When they watch Germany in some of the British media, they think this is a picture they have never seen in their whole lifetimes."

Berlin Wall
The former Berlin Wall is part of the German capital's fascinating history

Popular television series like Fawlty Towers, Blackadder and Auf Wiedersehen, Pet may be helping to perpetuate the problem.

The foreign minister said the planned visit by the Queen to Germany in November would be "very successful and highly appreciated".

The Queen's last state visit was in 2000, when she opened the new British embassy in Berlin.

The Reichstag - home of the German parliament - was reopened a year earlier after a substantial redesign by British architect Sir Norman Foster.

Mr Fischer said much of Germany's administrative, political and media structure had been put in place after World War II by the occupying British military, making his country very similar to the UK in many ways.

He urged the British to visit Berlin, which he described as "fascinating" and now in the same league as Paris and London.

Hear the BBC's interview with Mr Fischer

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