EVER since the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989,
supporters of a Western European embrace of the new democracies of
Eastern Europe have said the European Community is too
self-absorbed, and would miss a historic opportunity to unify
In its determination to pursue its own political and economic
integration before admitting any new members, the Community was
compared to a group of feasting rich men leaving their pauper
neighbors to beg and quarrel in the cold.
Like most characterizations, that one was an exaggeration. And
last week's lunch here - bringing together the 12 foreign ministers
from EC member countries and their counterparts from the three newly
independent Baltic states - illustrates how things have changed for
the EC, and Europe in general, since the failed Soviet coup of Aug.
Circumstances have forced the Community to open the banquet room
door, and from now on the EC is going to find new Europeans at its
Instead of "deepening" its own economic and political integration
before "widening" its membership, the Community is now likely to
have to juggle the two acts. "Ideally, we should change the
(Community's) institutional structure first and then tackle
enlargement," says Frans Andriessen, EC external affairs
commissioner. "Now we shall have to do both together."
"Our problem," says Pascal Lamy, head of Cabinet for EC
Commission President Jacques Delors, "is going to be how to (mesh)
our internal drive toward integration (with) a constructive response
to events in the East."
But a sign of just how difficult the inclusion of Eastern Europe
is likely to be came last week when the EC Commission, trying to
negotiate special association agreements with Poland,
Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, asked EC foreign ministers to lower
trade barriers to these countries' most competitive products.
France, backed by Belgium and Ireland, balked at opening EC
markets to eastern beef and lamb meat at a time when its own farmers
are battling higher imports. Protests from Portugal put off a
proposal for phasing out quotas on the three countries' textiles.
"We're sending a very negative message to the countries to our
east," said Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van den Broeck.
The Community is sending more positive messages to other
potential European members, those in the affluent European Free
Trade Association (EFTA). Two EFTA members, Austria and Sweden, have
already applied for membership. …