WEST GERMAN Chancellor Helmut Kohl is back from a quick trip to Moscow with a spring in his step. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev agrees that the Germans can pursue reunification in their own time frame and in their own way, Mr. Kohl announced late Saturday night. ``This is a very good day for Germany,'' he said.
Kohl will begin doing things the German way this week, when East German Prime Minister Hans Modrow arrives in Bonn tomorrow. The focus of the discussions will be on monetary union (replacing the East German mark with the West German mark) and on far-reaching economic reforms in East Germany.
Monetary union would be a giant step toward unification, as it would mean the transfer of East German control of monetary policy to the West German central bank. It would also amount to wholesale adoption of the West German economic system.
Time is of the essence, says Bonn, because of the ``dramatic'' situation in East Germany. Not only are nearly 2,000 East Germans moving to West Germany every day, but the economy and government structures are close to ruin, said a senior Bonn official on Friday. Local governments are dissolving or refusing to carry out the initiatives from central government.
Bonn sees monetary union as a step toward stability - as a sign to East Germans that their lives will soon improve and that moving to West Germany is not necessary.
The drastic situation in East Germany ``is still not clearly understood abroad,'' said the senior official on Friday. In the chancellor's view, this message was a crucial point to carry to Moscow.
The West German government is emphasizing that the speed toward reunification is being generated mostly by East Germans themselves, not by a West Germany insensitive to the concerns of neighbors and allies.
Despite this assertion, Bonn would still like to nail down as many details on monetary and economic reform as possible before East German elections on March 18, so that it can execute the plans with the new government in a speedy manner.
After the elections, the two Germanys will likely begin talks on unification. (Kohl does not consider Mr. Modrow the negotiating partner on this, because he does not represent a legitimate government.)
According to the West German interpretation of Mr. Gorbachev's position, the Germanys are pretty much left on their own to figure out how and when to unify. The four victorious powers of World War II, however, must be consulted as well as European countries - a process that Kohl has always supported.
Bonn expects a unification plan to be drawn up, in consultation with the four powers, which could then be presented to a pan-European conference, probably in the late fall. The plan would contain a clear statement that a unified Germany would stop at Poland's western frontier.