Conservative Victory in Britain Encourages European Community

Article excerpt

NOW that British Prime Minister John Major has elections safely behind him, the expectation across the English Channel is that he will cooperate more fully on European unification.

The view on the continent is that by winning a majority on his own merits, Mr. Major is now truly his own man - free from the foot-dragging policies toward European unity of Margaret Thatcher and her right-wing colleagues.

"The right-wing Conservatives who put the brakes on unity are in a way irrelevant now. He's put them behind him," says Angelika Volle, specialist on the European Community for the German Society for Foreign Affairs in Bonn.

Britain is now much more likely to give ground on monetary union and join a single European currency, say observers of the political scene in Europe. London may even move closer toward a single European foreign policy and security policy, adds Ms. Volle.

The British stood glaringly alone at the European Community summit in Maastricht last December, which was called to map out the way toward a united Europe.

They insisted on "opt-out" clauses from both monetary union and the so-called "social chapter," which deals with EC decisions on labor and employment issues.

Major came to the summit under pressure from Mrs. Thatcher and his party's right wing not to sacrifice British autonomy for European unity. His "a la carte" approach in Maastricht greatly irritated his EC colleagues.

"Now that he is free from the election, Major will move toward a more centrally accepted European position," says Dominique Moisi, deputy director of the French Institute for International Studies in Paris.

Mr. Moisi says the British will probably give up their resistance to European monetary union, though, like Volle, he believes they will stand firm on their exemption from the social chapter.

In the past, Major has said he will not roll back a decade of labor reform and improved competitiveness of British firms just to comply with EC decisions in the labor field. …

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