'The End of the D-Mark,' the banner headline in Germany's mass-circulation Bild Zeitung screamed.
Beside it, surrounded by a mock photograph frame, was a picture of Chancellor Helmut Kohl holding up a gigantic D-Mark coin, with the slogan:'Helmut, you made such a handsome couple.' And underneath, the cryptic caption: 'For your photograph album, in memory of Kohl and the strong D-Mark.'
Like all great popular papers, when Bild decides on a campaign, it does not pull any punches. Given the almost total lack of any serious public debate in Germany about the EC treaties on political and economic union before Maastricht, its cheerful hysteria comes almost as a relief.
'In the Dutch town of Maastricht yesterday could be heard the sound, quite softly, of a funeral bell,' the front page lead began. 'It tolled for the symbol of German prosperity, of the German economic miracle. In 1997, or at the latest in 1999, the Deutsche Mark will be abolished. . . . What would the great Ludwig Erhard (regarded as the father of post-war Germany's economic miracle) have had to say about that?'
The newspaper is also convinced it is reflecting the overwhelming popular feeling of its 4.8m readers. It cites an opinion poll by the Wickert Institute, saying that 79 per cent would favour a referendum before the D-Mark is abolished. Only 17 per cent would back the politicians - government and opposition alike - in supporting the move to European economic and monetary union.
'But the Germans were not asked. The politicians decided. The Ecu is coming,' Bild wails.
And on Page Two, no pin-up girl, but another brutal assault on the European currency. 'Ecu,' the headline shouts, 'how on earth do you pronounce the thing?' 'Why can't we call it the Euro- Mark?' the newspaper wants to know.
Ironically, the scepticism expressed by the country's most popular newspaper reflected most closely the caution of its business establishment, rather than the general disappointment of the political leadership at the modest results.
The politicians were virtually unanimous that if Maastricht was a disappointment, it was because it did not go far enough. That was the immediate reaction of Mr Hans-Dietrich Genscher, foreign minister, just as it was of Mr Bjorn Engholm, leader of the opposition Social Democrats.
'On the central question of democracy in the Community, the Chancellor simply buckled at the knees,' Mr Engholm declared. 'The extra powers agreed for the European parliament are inadequate. Contrary to what he promised in advance, he voted for the European currency, without ensuring that the future European union will be democratic enough.'
As for the postponement of any decision on giving Germany another 18 members of the European Parliament, to represent the new states of east Germany, he expressed his 'grave disappointment'.
Mr Kohl's own party supporters were loyally more enthusiastic about the deal he finally brokered. 'The results of Maastricht are a victory for Europe and for Chancellor Helmut Kohl,' said Mr Volker Ruhe, secretary general of Mr Kohl's Christian Democratic Union. 'Thanks to his unwavering efforts, yesterday's decisions mean that the process of political union has been set on an irreversible course.'
As for the federal states, first reactions suggest that they will buy the deal - thanks to a paragraph defining their own beloved concept of 'subsidiarity', or building the EC from the bottom up.
'It is a half-victory for the states,' said Mr Florian Gerster, European affairs minister for the Rhineland Palatinate. 'For the first time in Maastricht the principle of subsidiarity from below has been written down in the text. Regional government will have priority in the solution of problems before they are passed on to national or supra-national level.'
It certainly looks as if Mr Kohl may have done enough to win ratification from the Bundestag and the Bundesrat. Unless, that is, Bild Zeitung can swing the whole debate the other way in the coming months.
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