Believe me, I sympathise with your problem. Here we are, having signed on the dotted line for the creation of a united Europe. Given the history of Europe this century, you might be forgiven for feeling that this cosy relationship between the neighbours is, quite simply, a miracle - proof that the historic events of 50 years ago are just that: a part of history. But life is never quite that easy.

The Germans are pointedly not invited to the 50th anniversary celebrations in June of D-Day, when Allied forces stormed on to the Normandy beaches.

Your spokesman's official version is that you never asked for an invitation. That may be true: by all accounts, however, you only backed off from asking when it became clear that you wouldn't get one if you did ask. Then you insisted, in an apparent fit of pique at not receiving a personal invitation, that no German diplomat should attend any D-Day celebrations that could be construed as being of a military nature.

If you have been watching these things carefully - and I rather suspect that you have - then you may have noticed that the further away we get from the events being commemorated, the more seriously the politicians of Western Europe seem to take this whole anniversary business. The fanfares have got bigger as the years go by.

You want the anniversary to emphasise reconciliation. Britain and its wartime allies, on the other hand, want to remember the glory days, with maximum pomp and circumstance. Fair enough, it could be argued, if that merely means allowing veterans a more-or-less last opportunity to commemorate what they went through - which, let's be blunt, did involve beating Germany.

I know you believe that Europe should be allowed to focus on the future, as much as the past. But did you really need to get your political knickers in such a twist?

The truth is that your every attempt to force a change of attitude tends to backfire. You would perhaps be better off simply waiting for the tide to turn, as it will (remember, even Margaret Thatcher, that great Germanophobe, was eventually knifed by her own side; and Nicholas Ridley, the most famous German-hater of all, was promptly sacked because of his splutterings).

In any case, the time for change may be close. Next year's 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War will, it seems, at last put the emphasis on 'look how far we have come since then', rather than 'look how marvellous was our victory over the Hun'.

I realise that this may be scant comfort to you, since the opinion polls show that you, the great enthusiast of European unity, will not survive the October elections. It will probably be your Social Democrat challenger, Rudolf Scharping, who gets the invitation to next year's jamboree - which will concentrate on the beginning of peace.

Still, it will look good when you watch it on television.

(Photograph omitted)

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