AS senior officials of the European Community prepared for an all-day meeting April 6 on how to give new impetus to the EC's Single Market, some officials commented sardonically that the range of discussion was too modest.
"Maybe we should be looking beyond the Single Market at how to get the whole Community moving again," said one senior official.
His comment reflects the glum mood at EC headquarters in Brussels, where the activism of previous years has been supplanted by a low-profile holding pattern.
The EC was supposed to be in the midst of implementing provisions of the Maastricht Treaty on deeper economic and political integration, which was to have taken effect at the beginning of the year. But the treaty remains in limbo, awaiting the uncertain outcome of ratification procedures in Britain and Denmark.
In addition, the razor-thin victory of France's referendum on Maastricht last September and an earlier "no" from the Danes the first time they voted, plus a succession of unencouraging public-opinion surveys, indicate just how poorly EC government is viewed.
"The Community's situation is very bad," says one official close to EC Commission President Jacques Delors. "It's common for people to say that the Community advances in good times and falls back in bad, but no one's too sure when the sky is going to clear this time."
Mr. Delors himself told the European Parliament recently that "the very idea of a united Europe is in peril."
Comments like this have led to a fresh round of commentary on "Euro-pessimism," a malaise that first struck the Community after the oil shocks of the 1970s. But one senior official says the Community's condition is more accurately "Euro-disappointment," because it results from several specific points on which the EC has "fallen short" of Europeans' expectations.
Those points include:
* Europe's economic downturn, and especially the psychologically deflating juxtaposition of postwar record-high unemployment, and the arrival of the EC's long-touted Single Market.
* The war in Yugoslavia, and the EC's inability to take decisive action against armed conflict in Europe.
* Inability to ratify the Maastricht Treaty on schedule, a failure that has broken a sense of momentum and replaced it with a feeling of drift.
EC leaders are especially sensitive to criticism of …