East German leader Erich Honecker's visit to West Germany is, by ordinary standards, proving to be a ho-hum affair. It has aroused little excitement among West Germans. And the 13-page communique issued Tuesday reflected no breakthroughs--or, indeed, any significant progress--on the fundamental differences that divide the two Germanys. Both Honecker and West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl attach great symbolic importance to the visit, however, and it could be that they are right.
Honecker, a hard-line Communist who has led East Germany to impressive economic accomplishments, is the first East German head of state to be received in Bonn since the division of Germany after World War II.
The leaders of the two Germanys looked on Tuesday as agreements on cooperation in science, the environment and nuclear safety were signed. They joined in declarations of mutual interest in arms reduction and the maintenance of peace in Europe. On issues on which they are in fundamental disagreement, however, neither side budged.
Honecker flatly rejected a proposal that both Germanys work toward national reunification. He ignored a plea from Kohl to tear down the Berlin Wall, and apparently avoided any permanent commitment to stop shooting would-be escapees. The West German chancellor, in turn, brushed off Honecker's demand for formal diplomatic recognition of East Germany.