Pubdate: Sat, 04 Nov 2000
Source: Irish Times, The (Ireland)
Copyright: 2000 The Irish Times
Contact:  11-15 D'Olier St, Dublin 2, Ireland
Fax: + 353 1 671 9407
Author: Derek Scally, in Berlin


"How many of our politicians are drug addicts?" was the headline in Berlin
tabloid BZ yesterday after traces of cocaine were discovered in toilets used
by elected officials and civil servants in Berlin's Reichstag parliament

It was more a case of red faces than white noses around the parliament
yesterday after the revelation by television station SAT1 that 22 of 28
toilets tested were contaminated with cocaine.

"It's unbelievable what was in this report. The toilets where cocaine was
found are cleaned every day, sometimes even twice," said parliamentary
spokesman Mr Hans Hotter, choosing to defend the professionalism of the
toilet cleaners rather than the habits of the toilet users. The federal
government first dismissed the findings as "unbelievable", but the federal
public prosecutor yesterday announced it was launching an investigation into
the matter.

However, the government continues to dismiss out of hand calls for drugs
tests for all politicians and civil servants.

Politicians have so far appeared unsure of whether to come across as shocked
by the revelation and appeal to traditional supporters or whether to act a
little world-weary and maybe pick some of the elusive youth vote.

Mr Hubert H=FCppe, drugs spokesman for the opposition Christian Democrats
(CDU), decided to adopt the latter, more pragmatic, strategy.

"We in the parliament are no better or worse than anyone else. Anyone who
thinks there wouldn't be any drug addicts among 650 parliamentarians and
officials is naive," he said yesterday.

"It's unbelievable that the public are being taxed up to 50 per cent to feed
the habit of politicians," joked one visitor to the parliament yesterday,
adding that the Reichstag toilets may now become as much of a must-see as
the new glass dome. Germany's news media have been on a cocaine buzz since
Christoph Daum, the national soccer team's nominated new coach, tested
positive for cocaine and fled the country.

On Monday, news magazine Der Spiegel published a 14-page cover story on
Germany's "cocaine society", while Berlin tabloids have been reprinting
tales of 1920s Berlin, "when taking cocaine was as normal as taking a glass
of cognac".

Berliners who worried that the return of the government and arrival of civil
servants from the rather dull city of Bonn would be the death knell for the
city's rakish reputation are glad to see they had nothing to worry about.
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MAP posted-by: Don Beck