Kohl lectured on reforms

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The Independent Online
Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday sought to convert Helmut Kohl to the cause of reformism in Europe.

In his first official meeting with the German Chancellor, Mr Blair subjected his host to a lecture on monetary union and the need to galvanise the continent's faltering economies. On the day that German unemployment figures registered a leap of 50,000, the Prime Minister canvassed his host's support for a radical overhaul of Europe's jobs market.

"Above all, I want a new approach to Europe," Mr Blair wrote in an article published yesterday on the front page of Bild Zeitung, Germany's leading tabloid.

At his meeting with the German Chancellor, Mr Blair asked for his help to get the British blue-print for a flexible European workforce into the revised Maastricht treaty. Chancellor Kohl, in charge of a right-of-centre- government, was said to prefer the Blairite version to the programme co- sponsored by the French Socialists and the German Social Democrats.

At a joint appearance before their meeting in Bonn, Mr Blair said he was "working very hard" to ensure that the Inter-governmental Conference will wind up successfully at the Amsterdam summit later this month. He vowed to strive for "warm and strong relations between Britain and Germany".

There were, however, many areas of disagreement. Britain was concerned over the fate of Eurofighter, a multi-purpose aircraft to be built by four EU states.

Mr Blair also tried to enlist Mr Kohl's help in the football wars. The English Football Association's campaign for the right to stage the World Cup in 2006 was recently described by the footballer "Kaiser" Franz Beckenbauer as a "stab in the back". In this heated climate, it is hard to see how Mr Kohl could help. Any German leader caught backing the English against German footballers would lay himself open to a charge of being remote from his people.