Summits Damage Control

The Franco-German malaise

The tall, ruddy-cheeked West German and the pale, intense Frenchman stood outside the monastery church at Birnau, overlooking Lake Constance, near the West German-Swiss border. A Cistercian monk uttered words of welcome. West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl lifted his arms to the skies, clear after a daylong rain, and smiled: "Thank you, Prior, for we have been praying all day for the weather to improve." The quip brought a laugh from Kohl's companion, French President Francois Mitterrand.

It was a rare moment of levity in an otherwise dour and downbeat Franco-West German summit meeting between the two leaders. Five hours of...

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