Paris and Bonn renew push for EC union

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The Independent Online
FRANCE and Germany underlined their determination yesterday to increase pressure for further European integration, 'regardless of the problems in our path'.

Negotiations on enlarging the European Community should begin next month, Chancellor Helmut Kohl and President Francois Mitterrand declared at the end of two days of talks in Bonn. The leaders also expressed their wish for the Maastricht treaty to come into force by the summer of 1993.

In a tough message to speculators who in recent days have exerted renewed pressure on the French currency, Mr Kohl and Mr Mitterrand reconfirmed their support for the existing exchange rate between the franc and the mark, saying it is 'totally justified by the economic fundamentals of both countries'.

In what was interpreted as a concession designed to improve the chances of agreement at next week's Edinburgh EC summit, France has moved away from its previous insistence on not beginning enlargement talks before the Maastricht treaty had come into force.

The wish expressed by Mr Kohl and Mr Mitterrand yesterday to see the enlargement talks start immediately next year was partly intended as a signal of their determination to boost the momentum of European integration.

'Germany and France will continue on the road to political union with great energy and decisiveness, whatever some of the difficulties,' said the Chancellor. He expressed the hope that Britain and Denmark, 'helped by the decisions at Edinburgh, will ratify Maastricht early in 1993 so that the treaty can come into force by the summer. That is our goal, and we have no interest in seeing delays.'

But Mr Mitterrand also left no doubt as to the limits of France's concession on enlargement, pointing out that while the talks with Sweden, Austria, and Norway should formally begin, there could be no question of enlargement going ahead until both Maastricht had come into force and the Community of 12 had reformed its internal finances.

'Everything must be already agreed, because we expect the new members to abide by all the new conditions,' said Mr Mitterrand.

Both leaders lent their support to a programme of public investment to boost growth in the EC. They called upon the Edinburgh summit to 'give a positive signal in support of a European growth initiative'. In particular, investment in public housing and infrastructure should be strengthened, they said.

The two sides failed to bridge their differences over Gatt and France's opposition to an agreement with the United States over agricultural subsidies. While Germany accepted the European Commission's calculations as to the effects on European farmers of the agreement with the US, and argued that the compromise was acceptable, the French stuck to their own figures, which, they said, make the compromise unacceptable.

But the two countries, anxious not to let the Gatt problem complicate even further the already complex agenda of the Edinburgh summit, agreed to hold off on the issue until the beginning of next year.

The two leaders confirmed that France and Germany have passed a joint memorandum to Nato, informing the alliance of the conditions under which the Franco-German Eurocorps, currently being set up, would come under Nato command.

Given that this formally provides for the eventuality of French troops coming under the operational control of Nato's supreme commander in Europe, German military officials have portrayed the agreement as an historic step in France's gradual move away from its anti-Nato Gaullist security tradition.