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German capital launches "Be Berlin" marketing campaign

In the two decades since the Berlin Wall fell, Germany's capital has transformed itself from Cold War outpost into a hotspot for culture and cheap living, but the city must market itself more, its mayor said on Tuesday.

With a high unemployment rate and dearth of industry due to the exodus of big corporations after World War Two, Berlin has run up massive deficits in the last 18 years and has struggled to integrate the two former cities of East and West Berlin.

On Tuesday Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit took the wraps off a "Be Berlin" campaign modelled on earlier "I Love New York" and "I amSTERDAM" campaigns. He said the 11 million euro ($17.02 million) image makeover would be a catalyst for economic reforms.

"Berlin is already a 'place to be' for creative people from around the world," Wowereit said. "But even if the rhythm of the city fascinates people everywhere, we can and must do more to take advantage of that."

It was the economic stagnation that created the low housing costs that made this metropolis of 3.4 million a magnet for artists, filmmakers, musicians and students from around the world. That mix appeals to the 8 million tourists who visit Berlin each year, bringing the capital about 9 billion euros in revenues. Wowereit wants even more visitors.

"We surveyed people around the world and found astonishingly contradictory results," he said. "People and business leaders in Berlin and Germany see the city as trendy, dynamic and full of life, but abroad it's seen as proficient, orderly and serious."

Through the 1920s, Berlin was one of Europe's most exciting cities with a vibrant nightlife and bustling industry.

But the Nazi regime, World War Two, and Communist East Germany all took their toll on Berlin, a flashpoint for tensions during the Cold War when Soviet and Allied forces faced off.

"The after-effects can still be palpably felt," said Wowereit. "But you can feel the winds of change everywhere after the difficult years behind us. The booming tourism industry is proof of Berlin's international appeal. We've got to take advantage of that."

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