Yugoslav Crisis Tests Limits of European Unity EC Falls Short of Defining Common Policy, as Members Back Away from Deeper Military Role

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EUROPEAN Community action to help pacify fractious, post-Communist Yugoslavia leaves uncertain just what policy the Community's 12 members are applying in this crucial test of the EC's future political integration.

Facing the first truly European conflict since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the EC demonstrated this week why it will be difficult for its 12 nations to move to a more tightly integrated foreign policy, as the Community is now trying to do.

"This (Yugoslav) crisis comes as the EC is searching to move from political cooperation to becoming a strong international actor," says Otto Smuck, deputy director of the Institute for European Politics in Bonn. "It's a transition that was already difficult, but this shows how deep particular problems, such as the strength of individual national perspectives, remain."

After the EC's fourth diplomatic mission in a month failed Sunday to cement a cease-fire in Croatia, an emergency meeting of EC foreign ministers Tuesday was notable for its efforts to move discussion of the Yugoslav crisis to broader international institutions.

EC officials discussed alternatives but were perhaps saved from taking more immediate action by the announcement, even as they met, of a new cease-fire agreement. The Yugoslav presidency said Tuesday it had reached an agreement with Croatian nationalists, neighboring Serbs, and the Serbian minority within Croatia's borders on a cease-fire to begin early yesterday. At this writing yesterday, the cease-fire was holding.

EC wrestlings resulted in foreign ministers supporting a French proposal to take the issue to the United Nations Security Council, while endorsing Germany's request for a meeting of the 35-member Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE).

The CSCE, which includes the United States and the Soviet Union, was to meet in Prague today.

Any UN action on the crisis appeared doubtful, however, since neither the Soviet Union nor China - both of which hold veto power on the Security Council - look favorably on international involvement in what they view as one country's internal affairs. The Soviet Union is also mindful of difficulties it faces with its independence-minded republics.

The foreign ministers also decided to consider reestablishing aid to Yugoslavia. The aid was cut when fighting, which has killed more than 300 in just over a month, broke out. Acting pointedly to counter Serbian designs for a "greater Serbia," EC foreign ministers said aid totaling more than $1 billion would not be restored to those republics refusing a cease-fire or to those trying "to modify international or national borders by force. …