The Week Ahead: No fear of the goosestep this time round

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The Independent Online
IT SEEMS, on the face of it, a provocative decision for Germany to send its troops into France on Thursday, Bastille Day. A German general will head a unit of 800 soldiers from the multi-national Eurocorps in the annual national-day parade, of whom about 120 will be German. It will be the first time German troops have paraded down the Champs-Elysees since Hitler's victory parade in 1940.

As a gesture of appeasement to old Resistance members and others who had raised howls of protest, the German troops - clad, not in a common Eurocorps uniform but their own national combat kit - will not be marching, but riding aboard what President Mitterrand's military adviser, General Christian Quesnot, calls: 'The tools of their trade, their tanks.'

Surprisingly perhaps, an opinion poll suggests, that most French people regard the presence of German troops in the annual parade not as a provocation at all but a handsome gesture of Franco-German friendship. Figaro finds that 58 per cent favour including the Germans, while 34 per cent think it a bad idea.

Critics may be mollified by the fact that the 2nd French Armoured Division, which helped to liberate Paris in August 1944, will have pride of place at the head of the parade.

It could be the first expression of an expected green light from Germany's Constitutional Court tomorrow to send troops abroad to serve in international operations.

The court's ruling is expected to reject complaints from the opposition parties about German troop engagement last year in Somalia and in policing the embargo against the former Yugoslavia. The ruling would end a principle of post-war German foreign policy, that troops could not operate outside the territories of Nato countries.

President Bill Clinton will be in Germany today on the last leg of his European tour, to reinforce the message of international security co-operation. He will have talks with Chancellor Helmut Kohl in Bonn and enjoy a private dinner with the Chancellor at his home town of Oggersheim. Mr Clinton visits Berlin tomorrow to attend the withdrawal of the last US troops from the city.

The authorities in Spain introduce a summer crackdown on crime on Friday until the end of August, when tourists will have free access to interpreters working for the security services.

Today is the deadline for nominations for candidates in Sri Lanka's parliamentary elections in August, and the government in Colombo may not renew the state of emergency when it expires on Friday. The ruling United National Party starts campaigning with a rally in the central Kandy hills on Saturday.

Tomorrow is the 200th anniversary of the day during the siege of Calvi when Nelson lost his right eye, and, to mark the occasion, a pair of local winegrowers are offering a red and rose Corsican wine called Horatio Nelson, The Admiral's Reserve.

Nasa predicts that in the week beginning on Sunday, a string of comet fragments will crash head-on into the planet Jupiter, a prospect which they describe as a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event.