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The BBC's Nicholas Witchell
"The Queen hailed the re-emergence of Berlin as Germany's capital"
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The BBC's Caroline Wyatt reports
"Passers-by stop to stare at the lurid colours"
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Tuesday, 18 July, 2000, 10:33 GMT 11:33 UK
Queen opens Berlin embassy
Berlin Embassy
The glass and steel structure cost has attracted controversy
Queen Elizabeth has opened a newly built British Embassy in the heart of reunified Berlin - the first time a reigning monarch has performed such a ceremony.

She told an audience of dignitaries, including German President Johannes Rau and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, that the new embassy was a symbol of vibrant British culture and the openness of British diplomacy.

But the colourful building, designed by a British architect, has already been criticised with one leading German architectural critic dismissing it as "more hot air than cool Britannia".


Where formerly West and East confronted each other, now they can come together here

Queen Elizabeth
The Queen, however, praised the design, describing the wide, open spaces as a statement of British diplomacy: open, transparent and innovative.

She was greeted by cheering crowds when she arrived outside the futuristic $75m building, accompanied by Prince Philip and UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook.

"Berlin will no longer be an outpost, but a geographic centre of the continent. Where formerly West and East confronted each other, now they can come together here," she said, before unveiling a plaque.

"Mediocre"

The embassy stands on Wilhelmstrasse, near the Bradenburg Gate, on the site of the pre-war embassy which was destroyed by allied bombs.

Queen Elizabeth II
The Queen will also visit the Reichstag
It was built when the German Government relocated from Bonn to the new capital Berlin after the country's unification.

The building will provide offices for 125 diplomats and local staff.

Writing in the Die Welt daily newspaper, German architecture critic Rainer Haubrich, described the design as "mediocre at best, uninspired in its layout and with bad details."

Joint project

He said it symbolised the declining fortunes of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour government.

But the Queen congratulated everyone involved in the building, which had been a joint British-German project.

An oak tree planted in the courtyard is dedicated to the memory of Derek Fatchett, the Foreign Office Minister who broke the ground on the site in June 1998, but died less than a year later.

On Monday night, the Queen was guest of honour at a dinner given by the British ambassador, which was also attended by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and his wife Doris.

After lunch with President Rau, she will visit the Reichstag parliament building, which was designed by leading British architect Sir Norman Foster.

US embassy battle

She will then visit the offices of British cultural mission in Berlin, the British Council, in the fashionable Hackesche Markt district.

The Queen last visited to Berlin in 1992.

Some other countries have had less luck with their plans to build new embassies.

The United States, for example, is in the middle of an acrimonious battle with the Berlin authorities over security measures.

The Americans want to build a 30-metre security perimeter around the new site, which would mean either moving the Brandenburg Gate or one of the main roads linking eastern and western Berlin.

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16 Jun 00 | Birthday Honours 2000
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