IN a Western Europe that twice in this century has been devastated by a German-led war, response to West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl's plan for an eventual reuniting of the two Germanys is temperate, even positive. The consensus is that it is normal that Germany, the only nation still divided after World War II, should openly discuss scenarios for eventually lifting that divide at a time when the old East-West order is crumbling.
There is general relief that Chancellor Kohl set no timetables within his plan, and that he insists on strict democratic reforms within the East German state before steps toward a federation could begin. In Paris especially, where President Fran,cois Mitterrand pushes a structurally strengthened European Community as the best response to change in Eastern Europe, Kohl's repeated placing of West German action within a Community context is seen as positive.
At the same time, analysts here say Kohl's remarks must be seen in the light of internal West German politics, where the lack of a clear pronouncement from Kohl on the reunification issue was beginning to threaten the chancellor from the right.
British sources say London was pleased West Germany's NATO membership was not questioned. Foreign ministries in Madrid and Brussels responded positively. ``Interesting and constructive'' is how one French presidential spokesman described Kohl's plan, while a spokesman at the Foreign Ministry said German internal politics were ``50 percent of the explanation'' for the timing and specificity of the speech.
In a 10-point plan to serve as a framework for an eventual ``federation'' of the two German states, Kohl demanded free elections and constitutional changes in East Germany as conditions for progress toward unity. As such prerequisites are met, a number of common committees, including governmental and parliamentary ones, would be established.
That there was no official response Tuesday to Kohl's reunification plan from either the 'Elys'ee, the French presidential palace, or from the French Foreign Ministry, underscores a French desire not to be seen as reacting to ``the German problem.''
``Let's not go faster than the music,'' the 'Elys'ee spokesman said yesterday when asked for response to Kohl's speech. In a recent interview with the weekly Paris Match, President Mitterrand said ``The question of the borders that resulted from the last war ... will not be decided in a moment of emotion.''
In Bonn, one Western diplomat said that ``one thing people are pleased with is [Kohl's] adherence to the ideal of firm structural and constitutional changes'' in East Germany. He added that before Kohl gave his speech, West Germany ``discussed'' the points ``within allied circles.''
Manfred W"orner, secretary general of NATO, said that the ``approach outlined by Chancellor Kohl is in basic agreement'' with the goal at the May 1989 NATO summit meeting to ``move beyond the postwar period and to overcome the painful division of Europe.'' He said that ``close cooperation'' with West Germany's allies is central to the process laid out by Kohl.
Mitterrand has stressed that German reunification depends largely on the will of the German people. At the same time, however, he is careful to note that no national will for reunification can be imposed without the participation at some point of the four guarantors of the German status - France, Britain, the United States, and Soviet Union.