West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt will hold a special working session Wednesday in Paris with French President Francois Mitterrand to deal with the situation in Poland and the effect of developments there on East-West relations, it was announced today by a West German government spokesman.
For the West Germans, a high-level conference with the French offers the chance to clarify and formally coordinate Bonn-Paris thinking with an eye toward quelling continuing attacks in the French media against West Germany. The hostile editorials, which accuse Bonn of not knowing whether it belongs to the East or the West, were sparked by West Germany's reserved response to Warsaw's imposition of martial law.
French officials, in turn, are said to be concerned that Bonn may overcompensate for its initial caution by pushing too hard for active measures under pressure from the United States. For them, the meeting is an opportunity to discuss the pacing of future responses.
The new irritation in relations between the two countries, which included a reported tiff at the session last week of European foreign ministers between Bonn's Hans-Dietrich Genscher and Paris' Claude Cheysson, tends to look worse when contrasted with the German-French harmony that existed in the time of Valery Giscard d'Estaing's presidency.
A close friendship between Giscard and Schmidt had allowed for a smoothing over of a number of national differences and provided a firm basis for the launching of West European initiatives. Since the election of Mitterrand last year, much of this sense of Bonn-Paris intimacy has been lost.
Schmidt has drawn some benefit, most notably in his important fight in defense of NATO nuclear missile plans, from Mitterrand's stern view of the Soviets, but France's sharp and early denunciation of the Polish crackdown served only to highlight West Germany's reserved response and cause some embarrassment here. Other timely differences remain, most importantly between the French Socialist leader's economic plan, which favors potentially inflationary government spending to fight unemployment, and Schmidt's less interventionist approach.
The West Germans, probably because they feel themselves to be the injured party, appear more sensitive than the French about any damage to bilateral ties that might have been done in recent days. West German newspapers have been carrying daily reports of the criticism of Bonn's position in the French media.
The French attack reflects a certain moral indignation over West Germany's initial reaction to the events in Poland, as well as an historical fear about West Germany drifting east and thus putting French security at greater risk.
In a counterattack to the French salvos, West German sources have been suggesting that it is really Mitterrand's government which has been footdragging on European moves that could help the situation in Poland. West German papers have printed reports saying the French delayed a European ministerial meeting and, that when the meeting did take place, Cheysson blocked a moved to send a European emissary to Warsaw and quarrelled with Genscher by insisting that the word "totalitarian" be substituted for "communist" in a communique citing the inability of such systems to meet people's aspirations for freedom. The French dispute these reports.