EUROPEAN Community summits have an uncanny way of being disrupted
by international crises.
Predictions that the past weekend's summit here would be an
uneventful stock-taking of the EC's current negotiations for greater
political and economic integration were shattered by the thunder of
civil war in Yugoslavia.
With bombing and deaths mounting at their doorstep, leaders of
the EC's 12 member countries acted quickly Friday with a mediation
mission that initially appeared to garner results.
By yesterday, the cooling-off period the EC thought it had
accomplished appeared in doubt, but leaders insisted their
intervention marked an important turning point for post-cold war
"We have demonstrated that at the political level we already have
a rapid reaction force," said Italian Foreign Minister Gianni de
Michelis, returning Saturday from emergency talks in Yugoslavia.
But observers, including some US officials, said the EC should
have used its leverage sooner with Yugoslavia and its breakaway
republics to head off the resort to violence.
With the threat of a moratorium on economic assistance in its
pocket, the EC delegation received promises for an immediate
cease-fire from Yugoslav federal authorities, and assurances from
Slovenian and Croatian leaders that independence measures would be
suspended for a three-month negotiating period.
But yesterday, the assurances appeared either broken or
threatened, which raised the prospect that the EC might act this
week to freeze economic aid.
THE last EC summit in April was dominated by emergency action to
assure safe havens for Kurds inside Iraq.
This pattern of summit agendas being overtaken by international
events has had at least one positive effect: It has allowed the EC
to throw off some doubts raised by its inaction in the Gulf crisis
and to demonstrate that it is capable of playing an influential role
on the international scene, especially in Europe.
"A certain European credibility is beginning to see daylight,"
said Luxembourg's president, Jacques Santer, whose country yesterday
completed its six-month presidency of the Community. Referring to
the ongoing negotiations for treaty reforms to enhance common EC
political action, he added, "We must now get down to
institutionalizing this political dimension."
If anything, the outbreak of war at its door was a sobering
reminder to the Community that it will not be able to build a
prosperous, democratic, and stable union within the borders of its
12 members if just outside the wall there is instability, violence,
and economic collapse.
Britain's Prime Minister John Major likely had this in mind when
he said at a post-summit conference Saturday, "We have to be careful
that in deepening (the EC) we don't throw down such a girdle that we
make widening (to neighboring countries) more difficult at a future