20 APRIL 1991, Page 20


Knock, knock! Who's there? Attali. Attali who?

Attali and completely over the top


ASK Jacques Attali to lunch, and he will send his security man before him. When your dining-room has been checked out for bombs and bugs, he may accept your invitation. Chancellors and Gov- ernors, in my experience, are content to take pot-luck. Not so the president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, launched this week in Lon- don with all the pomp he could muster. Heads of Government came from all over Europe. M. Attali treated them to a cello recital by his friend Rostropovich and to a long philosophical speech invoking the spirit of Kafka. Public celebration then gave way to private head-shaking. Is this a bank or an ego trip? Is the Berd (it gets its acronym from Banque Europeenne) safely on the wing, or has it taken off into the wide blue yonder? It has certainly come a long way in the 14 months since it was first a gleam in Francois Mitterrand's eye. The Berlin wall had been breached, peaceable revolutions were spreading eastwards across Europe, the West held its breath and then launched a fund. That is a familiar reflex response to momentous events; the quarrels tend to come later, as they have. By the spring, the Berd had £7 billion promised, from the 40 countries which are shareholders. It had a home so that London, at long last, housed a big international agency — and a president. No one could say that Jacques Attali was just another financial bureaucrat. He was M. Mitterrand's guru, a man of ideas, author of an unsolicited biography of the merchant banker Sigmund Warburg and of a history of time. His ideas for the Berd were on the grand scale.