Rebuff to Bonn but banana split goes on

Click to follow
IT IS now official. Germans cannot have cheap bananas. The European Court of Justice, the supreme authority on the fruit (and indeed everything else in Europe) said so yesterday.

The case will outrage Germans, for whom the issue has attained the dimensions of British rows over the Great British banger or prawn cocktail crisps. But those were made up, and this row is real.

What is at issue is that European Union policy has limited imports of cheap bananas from Latin America since the single market came into effect. Germans are the world's greatest banana-munchers. At the end of the war the much- desired and nutritious snack was suddenly available again, courtesy of the United States. After the Berlin Wall came down, east Germans, long denied the pleasures of the yellow treat, ate it in enormous quantities. To Germans, this is a matter of life, liberty and the pursuit of bananas.

The saga of German bananas seems to have been raging for decades, but in fact it goes back to rules introduced last year. These rules tried to draw a balance between the interests of banana producers from former British and French colonies and those in central and South America (so-called 'dollar bananas'). The latter are cheaper, but had restrictions put on them, raising the price.

Let us be clear: this is nothing to do with whether the bananas are bent or not. Straight, twisted, long, short or otherwise deformed, what matters is where the bananas came into the world.

Threatening to take away the Deutschmark was bad enough, but never lay hands on a German's banana. They threatened to block the Gatt trade deal, for instance. They were so outraged by the prospect of more expensive fruit that they took the case to the European Court of Justice.

Yesterday, the verdict came, and it mashed the German argument to a pulp. 'None of the reasonings of the Germans was sufficient to justify nullifying the market regime,' the court said. A German fruit importer said he would appeal to Helmut Kohl. 'We will appeal to Chancellor Kohl,' he said. The banana split goes on.