Germany’s roads and bridges may be needing repairs and police and border controls may be understaffed. But somehow the federal government has found €35 million ($41 million) to renovate and refurbish the luxury hotel on the Rhine that it owns, and that served as the official guest house when the West German capital was Bonn. Critics of the government and Berlin’s ministerial accountants are not amused.
The Hotel Petersberg, on a hill with a breathtaking view of the Rhine valley, has hosted dignitaries ranging from Queen Elizabeth II to the Shah of Iran. It has an historic background, having served as the headquarters of the Allied High Commission after World War II and the venue for the Petersberg Agreement, a first step toward granting West Germany its sovereignty, as well as many other significant events.
It was, and remains, a functioning hotel under management of the Steigenberger Group, but until 1999 government guests got priority booking. It is wholly owned by the government and as recently as the climate conference in October it hosted delegates and German cabinet members. While most of the government in a reunified Germany was relocated to Berlin by 1999, several ministries remain in Bonn and it retains special status as a “federal city.” Nonetheless, the hotel is the only commercial building owned by the government, an anomaly that has prompted calls for Berlin to divest itself of the property.