To deal with the legal requirements of the Netherlands, each party needed a lawyer with access to a secret weapon: Dutch.
“Each time a new point was introduced the Dutch started shouting,” recalls one of the attendees. “People would get up and slam shut their folders and say ‘that’s it, I’m leaving’.”
“Apparently there are some points of Dutch law which are not clear,” quipped another delegate.
One legal point remained clear enough to keep everyone round the table: if the EADS pact disappeared without a new plan in place, European partners would have to launch a 22 billion euro bid for EADS and justify it to voters at a time of austerity.
Adding pressure for a deal was a looming EADS investor forum on Monday Dec. 3. By that evening, with the deadline in tatters, the situation was so tense that exhausted delegates were sent home to rest. Others slept in the law firm’s library.
The deal finally took shape on Wednesday Dec. 5 after the arrival of Merkel’s economic adviser Lars-Hendrik Roeller.
In a breakthrough, Paris and Berlin agreed to ring-fence key defence assets inside special national defence companies supervised by three board members, two of whom would also serve on the main EADS board.
Experts say it will be up to Enders to nominate the three board members of the national defence entities. The French and German governments can approve or disapprove the triumvirate as a whole, but not haggle over individuals.
Even so, delicate questions remain over whether any of these national champions can also chair the whole EADS board. In theory, experts say nothing excludes this, but it will probably be avoided to prevent new problems of political mistrust.