Kohl's Austrian hols leave East spurned

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The Independent Online
It is amazing what a guilty conscience can do. The fax in the Independent's office here is on the verge of meltdown. Suddenly, in the middle of the August torpor, Bonn ministers feel they have vital information to purvey to the outside world. Of the sort that minister X will be opening a can factory in Halle; that minister Y will be visiting a shipyard in Stralsund, and Chancellor Kohl will, after returning from holiday, be patting the first car to role from the new Opel works in Eisenach.

All very fascinating, one may yawn. But the point behind the communications frenzy is that all of these places are in eastern Germany. This sudden keenness to prove how dedicated ministers are to spend time 'on the other side' is no coincidence. The grumbling has become a roar in recent weeks from eastern Germans fed up with what they see to be base neglect by their western overlords.

An opinion poll found the popular refrain: 'The chancellor has written us off. He trips round the world but rarely visits us in the East.' Editorials announced that it was high time for the Bonn crowd to come over and see reality for its miserable self, instead of making speeches in the West about how things are improving in the East. Mr Kohl is still traumatised by his vegetable- laden receptions of last year. His appearances since then have been meticulously planned with hand- picked audiences.

The clamour of eastern disappointment reached its climax when Mr Kohl went on holiday, to Austria, just as he has done every summer for the past 21 years. Time for a change, decided most newspapers. The chancellor ought to be taking his holiday in the not yet blooming landscapes of the east.

Jumping to his master's defence, Friedrich Bohl, the head of Chancellery, retorted: 'No one expects Lord Carrington to spend his holidays in Yugoslavia]' Mr Bohl is anxious to let everyone know how much he cares about the East, on the spot.

The fax spews forth his daily pilgrimages to one place or another. Theo Waigel, the Finance Minister has gone so far as to take his holidays on the island of Rugen, a favourite haunt of the Communist elite in the old days. According to the Leipziger Volkszeitung, 'Go East' is now the ersatz programme for 'Upswing East', the government's tarnished strategy to rescue the eastern economy.

The chancellor, however, remains unmoved, even when the magazine Stern accused him of being a 'coward' for avoiding the east. He has no intention of breaking with his beloved Wolfgangsee. 'I know of no one in Bonn,' retorted the holidaying chancellor, 'who has more contact with people in the East than I do.' Presumably, by telephone.

KARLSRUHE - An East German woman who worked as a secretary for Martin Bangemann, the EC Commission vice-president, has been charged with espionage, German prosecutors said yesterday, Reuter reports. The woman, known as Johanna O, became Mr Bangemann's chief secretary in 1974 and worked for him in Brussels in the early 1980s.