Germans See Bumpy Road Ahead the Slim French Majority for the Maastricht Traty Was Welcomed in Europe's Capitals, Buy the Changes Nations Such as Britain Will Now Demand as a Price for Ratification May Make It Difficult for the Pro-Union Germans to Accept. EUROPEAN UNITY

By Ruth Walker, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, September 22, 1992 | Go to article overview

Germans See Bumpy Road Ahead the Slim French Majority for the Maastricht Traty Was Welcomed in Europe's Capitals, Buy the Changes Nations Such as Britain Will Now Demand as a Price for Ratification May Make It Difficult for the Pro-Union Germans to Accept. EUROPEAN UNITY


Ruth Walker, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


THE sighs of relief heaved in European capitals when the "yes" vote in the French referendum on the Maastricht Treaty was first projected were especially deep in Bonn.

It has been "an overall relief that it has turned out this way," says a German official.

The 51.05 percent "yes" vote was well below the 54 or 55 percent level that conventional wisdom had deemed necessary for the referendum to be an unqualified "victory for Europe." "It's a slim majority, but it's a majority," the official says. "It's really also very important for the chancellor. It's been a major project for him to achieve German unity under a European roof."

Chancellor Helmut Kohl confidently predicted that "the French referendum will give new impetus to the European unification process," and added he was sure the German Bundestag would ratify the treaty by the end of the year.

Finance Minister Theo Waigel predicted a calming of the financial markets, which have been in upheaval in recent days with high German interest rates boosting the value of the deutsche mark and putting other European currencies under great pressure. Addressing concerns

Mr. Kohl acknowledged certain "concerns" of the people that will receive "our particular attention" during the ratification debate in Germany.

Bjorn Engholm, leader of the opposition Social Democrats, was reported as saying that the narrow majority should be taken as a "warning signal" of concern.

Kohl, who has expended considerable personal political capital campaigning for a French "yes" vote, argued that there is no reasonable alternative to a united Europe; without unification, he said, Europe will just be pushed around, a plaything of world interests.

Being pushed around, however, is what many of the French were concerned about. The Franco-German alliance has been an essential feature of the postwar European political landscape. But it has not been lost on the Germans that in the intense French debate before the referendum, "the German question" was used by both sides.

Vote "non" so that France can avoid being dominated by Germany, treaty opponents said. Vote "oui" so that France can keep an eye on Germany within a united Europe, supporters of the treaty said.

Thus, the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper editorialized yesterday, "The French vote cannot be seen simply as a cheerful `Yes to Europe.'"

The more strongly the case is made that the treaty is a good way of controlling Germany, the more concerned Germans are about their national sovereignty. "The people in Europe, especially in Germany, obviously want this Europe, but they also want to maintain their national identity," Foreign Minister Kinkel said, though he said he was not calling for a revision of the treaty. …

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Germans See Bumpy Road Ahead the Slim French Majority for the Maastricht Traty Was Welcomed in Europe's Capitals, Buy the Changes Nations Such as Britain Will Now Demand as a Price for Ratification May Make It Difficult for the Pro-Union Germans to Accept. EUROPEAN UNITY
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