Prince's secret bid to heal Bonn rift

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

THE PRINCE of Wales acted as a secret intermediary between the German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, and John Major during the wave of anti-German feeling in Britain earlier this year.

During a visit to Bonn on 19 March, the Independent on Sunday has learned, the Prince spent an hour with the Chancellor discussing how to calm the anger following the collapse of sterling on Black Wednesday, the previous September.

The Prince then wrote to the Prime Minister about the talks. Mr Major responded with a warm letter of thanks.

The Prince's intervention came at a time of strained relations between the two governments after Mr Major and Norman Lamont openly blamed the refusal of the Bundesbank to make significant cuts in German interest rates for the collapse of the pound and its exit from the Exchange Rate Mechanism.

There was also considerable resentment in Downing Street over German policy in the former Yugoslavia and over the European Fighter Aircraft Project.

The antagonism reached its zenith when, in October last year, the German ambassador, Baron Herman von Richthofen, leaked a confidential document drawn up by the then Bundesbank president, Dr Helmut Schlesinger, which dismissed Mr Lamont's claims of German culpability for Black Wednesday, and laid the blame on London for rejecting a previous offer to devalue.

The leak occurred as Chancellor Kohl and Mr Major were attempting to patch things up. Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, was in Bonn meeting the German Foreign Minister, Klaus Kinkel.

Two months later, Chancellor Kohl, while attending the Edinburgh European Community summit, invited the Prince to visit him. Media attention on the private meeting in March was deflected by the presentation to the Prince of an award, the 'Ecological Eagle'. 'It is thought that the Prince's role in restoring relations has been immeasurable,' one of his confidants said yesterday.

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