Birmingham Summit: Germans seek show of unity: Kohl's view

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The Independent Online
BONN - Chancellor Helmut Kohl travelled to Britain yesterday for a summit that he hopes will succeed in conveying a double message of reassurance and firmness. After the turbulence of the past month, the Germans want a demonstrative 'We are sticking together' show by the Twelve, writes John Eisenhammer.

Having got John Major back on to the Maastricht ratification rails, as they see it, after a period of severe wobbling, the Germans are anxious to underpin this re-found resolve with a declaration of determination and unity. The reassurance part of the message is also designed to serve this end.

Broadly speaking, the part of the Birmingham declaration dedicated to winning back the trust of the man in the street, pledging that no one's national identity will be sacrificed to the cause of European union, is aimed at the growing scepticism towards Maastricht among the populations of most of the member states. But it is directed with particular urgency at the Conservative Party.

For as Chancellor Kohl told Mr Major shortly after the French referendum, the fate of Maastricht now lies in his hands. Only if London ratifies, the German argument goes, is there any hope of resolving the Danish problem. If London does not, then the whole grand enterprise is dead.

'It is essential that we succeed at Birmingham in dampening Conservative fears. It is certainly important to aim for the longer- term meeting of popular worries in all our countries, but here we are talking about the fate of the treaty itself in the next few months,' said a German official.

That today's summit will decide little of substance is regarded, in Bonn's view, as essential to its success. Any attempt now to define subsidiarity too closely would plunge the search for reassuring harmony into acrimony.