Friction between the partners in the European Airbus consortium remained strongly in evidence during the show, with Germany launching thinly veiled attacks against the French position on restructuring the consortium.

"We have no time to indulge in the favourite game of Europeans, which is summed up by the question: who dominates whom?" warns Daimler-Benz Aerospace (Dasa) president Manfred Bischoff.

The Dasa boss says that Europe must unite against powerful US competitors, and not settle for "co-operations and programme companies - what we need are true European joint ventures". Bischoff says that restructuring Airbus into a single corporate entity as defined in the partners' memorandum of understanding (MoU) early this year "will inevitably occur", and that the new company must have control over all steps in the production process.

The statements are a response to earlier comments by Aerospatiale president Yves Michot, claiming that the partners are agreed on a re-organisation concept which would give the new Airbus company no control over the partners' assets (Flight International, 18-24 June). Germany and the UK both want to see the assets of the partner companies transferred to the new commercial company.

Speaking after the Airbus ministers' meeting at the show, German economics minister Günter Rexrodt said that Michot's statements have caused "irritation", which he hopes has been dispelled by the meeting. He says that the partners are now speaking "with one voice" in support of the MoU, aiming to found a new company in 1999 which will take over production, design and research assets "in the mid-term".

Rexrodt says that the German Government believes that this plan is "correct and indispensable".

Airbus president Jean Pierson says that the valuation of the partners' assets by consultants is now taking place, and final reports are due back by October. "At that time, the real negotiations will begin," says Pierson.

Chris Geoghegan, managing director of British Aerospace Airbus, says that the partners recognise the issue is more complex for Aerospatiale than for the other partners, because Airbus accounts for such a high proportion of the company's business, and because of the sensitivity of transferring state-owned assets into foreign hands. He concedes the French proposal could be adopted as an interim step "-and I stress, an interim step".

Source: Flight International