French Socialists plan summit fit for a king for Western leaders
Here at Louis XIV's famous chateau, France's egalitarian-minded Socialist rulers are preparing to be royal hosts at next month's economic summit.
Workmen are swarming all about the immense 17th-century palace, putting the finishing touches on the regal setting where the West's seven major leaders will meet from June 4 to 6.
In the Napoleonic chambers, painters are retouching the huge murals, sprucing up the red in the Emperor's cape. Gardeners daily manicure the chateau's renowned gardens, and artisans are busy installing new bathroom fittings - with gold-colored bathtaps, of course.
But these final preparations actually culminate 20 years of work that have restored much of the palace to its original state.
The bedroom of Marie Antoinette, for example, is now just as it was on the night in October 1789 when she had to abandon it, never to return. ''Every piece of furniture used at the summit will be from the period,'' said Foreign Ministry official Eric Bosc.
Just as no expense is being spared for the present summit, no detail is being left unplanned. Precisely at 3:30 p.m. Paris time June 4 President Francois Mitterrand will greet Gaston Thorn, president of the European Community, at the foot of the grand canal, the magnificent waterway that is the centerpiece of the palace's gardens.
The rest of the leaders will follow at half-hour intervals, with US President Reagan descending from his helicopter at 6:30 p.m. sharp. Aperitifs in a chandelier-adorned room follow, and the activities continue until the evening of June 6, when there will be a gala ball in the Hall of Mirrors.
During the weekend, the summit's work will be conducted in the Coronation Room. What alterations are being made to treat the seven chiefs equally is a state secret.
But the changes to the Grand Trianon, the king's elegant rose-and-white-marble single-level villa where the heads of state will be housed , are public knowledge. Gen. Charles de Gaulle renovated the Trianon as a guest house, but it does not contain enough bathrooms to accommodate seven. So four more bathrooms are being installed, only to be dismantled immediately after the summit.
Still, with seven delegations of about 250 each and about 2,000 members of the press, some luxury is giving way to practicality. False ceilings are being put in to hide the miles of electric cables being installed.
The press center alone seems the size of two full football fields, hundreds of individual wood cubicles are being built and 25 telexes and 60 international telephone lines installed.
France's tradition of luxury, grace, and style will be balanced at the summit by an effort to showcase the country's new technological prowess, specifically in the field of telematics.
France is a world leader in this process of fusing computers and telephones, and all about the palace grounds there will be computer screens connected to telephones. Reporters will be able to punch a few keys and retrieve vital statistics. Foreign ministers will be able to send written telecopy messages. Heads of states will be able to instantaneously transmit messages and urgent calls.
To install all the computers and spruce up the summit meeting, the chateau is being closed this week until mid-June. Versailles attracts nearly 3 million visitors annually, and furious local restaurateurs and hotel keepers have demanded a special government indemnity for exchanging three days of business for a full month's.
Not only that, but they will not have the honor of serving the heads of state. President Mitterrand has announced that four of France's most celebrated nouvelle cuisine chefs have been hired to cook the meals.
The three dinners and two lunches the leaders will eat together will be five-course affairs, but the menus have yet to be disclosed.
What the leaders will eat, then, remains more confidential than what they will probably discuss: high American interest rates and budget deficits, the Japanese trade deficit, and the dialogue between developing countries of the South and industrialized countries of the North.
These issues might produce little agreement, but the French government has spared nothing to ensure accord about its qualities as a summit host. Indeed, although the government says the affair will cost no more than the $7 million spent at last year's Ottawa summit, the only thing that might suffer at all is the Socialists' populist image.