Olympic boycott issue tests strenght of European community

By , Staff correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

To boycott or not to boycott the Moscow Olympic: This is the question suddenly testing the unity of the nine-member European Community (EC) The answer may come from a Feb.5 meeting of the EC's foreign ministers at the com likely, a formal decision will wait for the "political cooperation" meeting in rome, set for FEb. 18 and 19.

he French government is leaning heavily toward participation in the Olympics, arguing that:

* Sports and politics should be allowed to remain separate.

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* European detente is too vital to be endangered by events elsewhere.

* Boycotting the Olympics would have little practical effect on Soviet policies.

* (sotto voce) Europe must not appear to be following policies decided in Washington.

This four-pronged French thrust has been diverted, however, by one of France's most prominent figures, simoune Veil, the former French Cabinet minister who is president of the European Parliament.

During her visit to Washington, Mrs. Veil said Jan. 28, "I consider the advantages of a boycott more important than the inconveniences."

The West Germans appear caught between their traditional inclination to support US policies on important East-West issues and their tendency to align themselves closely with their main European partner, France.

The British, with increasing backing from the Netherlands and Belgium, are pressing hard for a boycott.

But British pressure is being discounted for two reasons. In recent months Britain has for two reasons. In recent months Britain has made itself increasingly unpopular by demanding major changes to lower its net contribution to community coffers.

Secondly, Britain still is seen as too closely tied to US policies. The common Market as a whole is determined to avoid even the appearance of taking orders from Washington in a struggle to build up European identity.

One new element in European thinking about a boycott came Jan. 28 from the meeting of Islamic foreign ministers in Islamabad.

The Islamic Conference strongly condemned Moscow for intervening in Afghanistan and called for the "immediate and unconditional" withdrawal of Soviet forces.

Europe could afford to support a boycott call coming from the third world -- although the EC, for sound internal political reasons, could not afford to support the same call coming from the United States.

Spokesmen for the European Community explain that this boycott question gives the nine member countries an ideal opportunity to speak up quickly with a single voice either for or against participating.

Thus the real proof of European unity will come, if the nine foreign ministers reach agreement on a policy in Brussels, where they will be speaking for the EC as a whole.

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