Chirac and Kohl kiss and make up

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The Independent Online
QUARREL, what quarrel? Like a married couple refusing to admit their differences in public, France and Germany yesterday put on a show of unruffled European solidarity.

After a summit in Avignon, President Jacques Chirac and Chancellor Helmut Kohl refused to dwell on their unseemly dispute over the leadership of the European Central Bank which poisoned the European Union summit in Brussels last weekend. They announced their intention to return to normal Franco-German business by promising joint proposals for the reform of EU institutions before the next European summit, in Cardiff in June.

The French prime minister, Lionel Jospin, even implied - disingenuosly - that the real fault for the Brussels bust-up should be laid at the door at Downing Street. He said action must be taken to ensure such meetings are better prepared in future, a dig at Britain and Tony Blair, who organised the summit as current holders of the rotating presidency of the EU council.

The carefully stage-managed display of friendship in Avignon was, in a sense, not a show but a recognition of a reality temporarily forgotten last weekend. France and Germany are condemned to get on, even if they need to let off steam occasionally; and even if the relationship is not as solid as it once was.

President Chirac went as close as he could to endorsing the Chancellor for re-election this Autumn. "We need for a long time to come the Chancellor's European vision," he said.