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Journalist Johannes Gross Pleads for a More Urbane Berlin Republic (1995)

Frustrated with the provincialism of politics and the lack of communication among the elites in Bonn, journalist Johannes Gross pleads for the emergence of a more urbane and cosmopolitan political style in Berlin – one commensurate with the increased importance of the larger Federal Republic.

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The Capital

[ . . . ]

Bonn, the capital without any historical qualifications, owing its existence mostly to its proximity to the house of old Adenauer, symbolized a discontinuity in German history that was greatly desired by the Germans. Its name alone seemed to guarantee that German power-politics would no longer be pursued, that from now on politics would in fact be more idyllic than dangerous and unworthy of any undue regard; politics was not the most important thing in the life of the nation.

Bonn’s political style was in line with this. Politics lived in Bonn like a lodger, isolated from the goings-on of the old city; only the civil servants reside there, cultivating relationships among themselves in tight quarters in their newly erected apartment buildings. The parliamentarians come to the capital only during the weeks when parliament is in session – from Monday afternoon to noon on Friday; they live in small apartments without family and spend their free time in the many places that have been provided for them and where they have to pay little or nothing. Contact with the world beyond the party faction, parliament, the state representation from back home, or a closely connected interest group is not part of the regular program. [ . . . ] It follows that Bonn’s political style was always one of self-isolation from society and within politics and that it also involved the self-isolation of its members from one another. That is why Bonn-style politics were always mediated, through formal conferences, through press statements, often addressed not to the public but to someone who could have been an informal conversation partner under different circumstances, and through the support of the media.

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