For a Kinder, Gentler Society
A Widening Franco-German Rift?
New Books Add to the Suspicion of Berlin's Ambitions for Europe By John Vinocur
International Herald Tribune

PARIS - About two weeks ago, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told an audience at a political forum in Berlin he was concerned about some "awful books being published in France" that warn that Germany is a growing danger for Europe.

Mr. Schroeder obviously had been getting reports about a number of writers here characterizing Germany as Europe's problem for the new century. Their unifying idea, roughly, is that France has to go beyond the now burnt out notion of its once special relationship with Germany, and deal directly with the implications of a country whose course, at least in the authors' minds, is moving in an imperial, hegemonic direction.

Until now, and Mr. Schroeder's reaction, the thesis seemed confined to books that had gotten little readership or mainstream media exposure, and to a few op-ed page articles in newspapers. But a book by the former head of the French intelligence agency, pushing the notion that Germany once again means trouble, jumped into first place on the national nonfiction best-seller list last Friday, barely -a week after going on sale.

Publication of the book by Pierre Marion, who served as President Francois Mitterrand's first foreign intelligence chief in 1981 and 1982, comes after remarks last month by Maurice Druon, the permanent secretary of the French Academy, that Germany's old and instinctive reach for empire would push it toward a kind of nonmilitary confrontation with France in about 10 years.

What the books seem to reflect of a wider French view of a declining relationship between the two countries is the idea that there are increasingly few objective factors that would lead Germany to continue to share European political leadership with Fr

In the sense that all the books point to a decline in French influence, their premise is as abrasive, and unwelcome,
in terms of French public debate as it might be in Germany.

Much of the interest in Mr. Marion's book, "Memoires de L'Ombre" ("Memoires From the Shadows") published by Flammarion, seems largely to do with its contemptuous portrayal of the former president, which has been heightened by an attempt by lawyers for Mr. Mitterrand's daughter, Mazarine Pingeon, to stop its distribution.

But beyond the book's unusual characterization of the late president as an ill-informed man of vast self-indulgence, cynically ignorant of modern economics, science, or technology, its readers are being offered the accusation that the aftermath of World War I "masked the permanent will of our neighbors to impose their way of life, thought, and running things." Mr. Marion argues that Mr. Mitterrand was seduced by Chancellor Helmut Kohl - "rolled in flour for cooking" - with the idea that a reunified Germany would reinforce the construction of Europe.

In fact, Mr. Marion says, the unification of Europe is accelerating German domination, and France faces being submerged in a developing federal system controlled by the Germans.

This jibes, in part, with the arguments against European unification of a faction of the French right-wing calling itself "sovereignists."

Where Mr. Marion becomes more original is in saying that if the choice is German domination of Europe or American domination of NATO, "we should adopt an attitude allowing us, when the time comes, to obtain American support."

Probably the most meaningful issue raised by the book and two others that pursue parallel themes - " La Prochaine Guerre avec L'Allemagne" ("The Next War With Germany") by Philippe Delmas and "Voyage au Bout de l'Allemagne - l'Allemagne est Inquietante - ("Voyage to the End of Ger many - Germany Is Worrying") by Alain Griotteray - is not so much the substance of their arguments, but how much French elites are moving away from a largely benign view of Germany, and toward one that is more actively wary.

Mr. Marion insisted, in an interview, that this is happening and that it is healthy because "since de Gaulle, there's been complicity within the French political world to run from the issue."

Mr. Griotteray, a former National Assembly deputy who, like Mr. Druon and Mr. Marion, is over 75 years old, writes harshly but probably accurately that being uneasy about Germany in France has meant "being considered a Jew unable to forget the Holocaust or an old soldier obsessed by memories of the war."

He asks, Is Germany worrisome these days? The answer is yes. His argument is rather like Mr. Marion's. The current Greater Germany, Mr. Griotteray says, is only a more peaceful but no less dangerous version of Eternal Germany.

"Once reunified, powerful and compact," he says, "Germany can consider that it's time to bring Europe together into a great federation whose reins would naturally be in its hands."

Mr. Delmas makes a far more probing investigation.

A director of Airbus Industrie and an adviser to former Foreign Minister Roland Dumas, he argues that the unification of West and East Germany deepened rather than resolved an identity crisis for the two German peoples, and that this has been made more complicated by the country's resistance to and struggle with economic change.

A bigger, stronger, Germany faces decisions affecting Europe that go beyond its political traditions and level of self-confidence, Mr. Delmas says.

"While it's far from having found its internal balance and own identity, Germany has to affirm itself to the outside world."

What must particularly irritate Mr. Schroeder about Mr. Delmas's position is his view that Germany is fragile, indeed too weak to serve alone as a basis for European construction, but that its power nonetheless has to be "domesticated through a collective effort."

The response of France to the situation?

Ask Mr. Delmas: "The only road open to it is proposing to Germany the constitution of a common power," which, Mr. Delmas says, is no more an unthinkable enterprise than creating the euro.

Mr. Schroeder's special adviser for French affairs, Brigitte Sauzay, a Frenchwoman, says all this represents a very small percentage of French opinion, essentially the "nervous French bourgeoisie. "

But she acknowledges that Germans are hurt by it. "They think, 'We've made big efforts. We've been the best kid in the class all these years, and they still think we're bad.' "

"Naturally, these are all exaggerated concerns; Germany isn't dangerous," said Friedbert Pflueger, the Christian Democratic chairman of the Bundestag's Foreign and Security Policy Committee.

"The young generation absolutely cannot imagine confrontation. We have common institutions and the euro. But Delmas, Marion, and Druon are not just nobodies. We should take such concerns seriously and not give them occasion to grow through trying to act big."