Die Welt today

Coincidentally, this article appeared in Die Welt online today.


The national press in Germany takes a strong interest in the current plight of the Mosel, so here Prime Minister of Rheinland-Pfalz, Kurt Beck is asked about the issue. His response suggests that he sees this as a sticking point in possible upcoming negotiations over a coalition if the Green Party hit the success level the polls are predicting in March’s state elections. Elsewhere he tries to cosy up, but here he takes a pot shot at the popular politician Renate Künast, who is a staunch detractor of the Mosel bridge.

Welt Online: But the Greens sometimes annoy you, for example if the leader of faction of the Bundestag Renate Künast protests against the Mosel bridge near Ürzig.
Beck: Oh, sanctimoniousness irritates me. Mrs. Künast has agreed this bridge in the past in the federal cabinet. Either she did not read the papers, or she then had another opinion. I find it in any case difficult if in opposition one is suddenly loudly against things which one has helped carried through when holding the responsibility of government. Do you know, actually, where Mrs. Künast has protested against the bridge?
Welt Online: No.
Beck: In Berlin – in a Chinese restaurant. I like Chinese food very much, and the owner really has good Riesling from Rhineland-Palatinate on the wine menu, but nevertheless in this “protest” in Berlin with the wineglass in the hand, only political trendies have tried to distinguish themselves. Locally everybody knows that the Hochmoselübergang is absolutely necessary. At least 80 if not 90 percent of the people on the Mosel want the bridge.

Let’s add some flesh to these statements. As far as I understand it, whilst previously in coalition government the Greens agreed to a package of measures which included building this project – on the proviso that private finance was raised to realise it. Perhaps this was a calculated risk or else a tactical assessment, either way it indeed transpired that private finance would not touch the project with a barge pole as it was not (and will never be) financially viable. It was never agreed therefore to build the Hochmoselübergang and B50neu with public money, but this is now the case.

The International Riesling Rescue protest press event in a Chinese restaurant is an unfathomable source of mirth in the parochial Mainz mansion. There is a bizarre assertion that you are not supposed to try to protect a living piece of world cultural heritage by celebrating some prime examples of it. Then there is the unpleasant snorting in the state parliament at the mention of the Chinese restaurant, demonstrating that Beck and his cronies live in a very old fashioned world (with racist undertones), and have not heard that Riesling works superbly with asian food. That’s because they are not interested in Riesling, the jewel in the crown of German wine, the Queen of Grapes, the toast of the wine world for the past few years. The ‘political trendies’ he mentions that came along to meet a few of the top Mosel vintners were mostly television editors and newspaper chief correspondents, television crews (including the BBC), and radio journalists.

After Berlin, Künast also came to Ürzig to protest, following in the footsteps of Hugh Johnson and other such luminaries of the wine world. According to Mainz though, the world’s top wine critics don’t know anything about the Mosel and – they blackmailed winemakers into protesting. Try to get your head around that one. “A thief supposes that everybody steals”…. A nice Danish saying. Ah, the Danes, they appreciate the true value of the Mosel. Can’t we become part of Denmark?

Where does Beck get this figure, 80 or 90% of people on the Mosel being for the bridge? Are they a mere fraction of the 90% figure for people in Rheinland-Pfalz that his Minister Hering bandies about with abandon? The public has never been asked if this project is a good idea. All practical evidence weighs heavily against it. Vanity project, climbing the corporate ladder after holding political office, a thank you to funders and allies: any of these ring much more likely than ‘necessity’ for despoiling a national asset and world treasure?

The underhand tree-cutting betrays a fear of media images appearing with protesters being removed from the forest by police. Beck should be nervous, because the latest estimates for building the bridge are now under discussion in the corridors of power. My bet is they will do all they can to prevent the new figure from becoming public. Heiner Geissler, the mediator for the troubles arising from Stuttgart 21, highlights the reality of this unfolding tradgedy: there has been no transparency whatsoever with the whole B50neu project.


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