Kohl hands olive branch to French

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The Independent Online
BONN - Germany's Chancellor Helmut Kohl yesterday offered France much-needed words of support on the disputed agricultural agreement which was reached as part of the Gatt trade talks, writes Steve Crawshaw. After meeting Edouard Balladur, France's Prime Minister, Mr Kohl said that Germany, too, had 'enormous problems' with the agricultural part of the new world trade agreement - though he did not go as far as Mr Balladur in saying it was 'unacceptable'.

Mr Kohl also said it was 'unhelpful' to put 'French friends' in the dock on this issue. France is unhappy that its farmers would lose out under the deal. Both he and Mr Balladur said that they wished to reach an agreement on it within a fortnight.

They also spoke of the need for 'careful' joint preparations of the EC special summit in October, to give new impetus to the Maastricht process. Germany continues to be embarrassed by the fact that, despite official enthusiasm for Maastricht, the German constitutional court is still considering a plea challenging the entire agreement as unconstitutional.

Mr Kohl yesterday insisted that the two government leaders were 'entirely of one opinion' on the timing and the conditions for European monetary union. He talked, too, of the Franco-German relationship as one of the 'greatest and best results' of European policies in the past decade. The Maastricht agreement, he said, could not have been achieved without the friendship of both countries. And, he added, 'That will remain.' Mr Balladur, for his part, said that the relations between the two countries were 'basic' to France's foreign and European policy.

The French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppe, in advance of his visit to Germany this week - in another of the flurry of Franco-German meetings in the past few days - referred to the 'objective difficulties' in the relationship between the two countries.

But German commentators agree that the marriage is not yet on the rocks. The Suddeutsche Zeitung said yesterday: 'The sad (or realistic) fact is that all links that were forged in the Cold War are now loosening. Everybody is freer and more independent. Everybody can (and must) find new interests and partners.' It concludes, however: 'New lovers are not in sight, and thus the Franco-German marriage will hold for a while yet - even if with the partners going their own way more frequently, and sleeping in separate bedrooms.'

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