Necessary Steps for EC

LAST year's dream of the 12 European Community nations integrating overnight into a single political and economic federal Europe administered in Brussels did not come true this year.

Denmark wanted more democracy; France's oui on unity was very small; the British Parliament has not ratified the Maastricht Treaty. A monetary crisis lurks, as shown by Britain's September withdrawal from the EC's exchange-rate mechanism.

Prior to the EC's recent summit in Edinburgh, the shiny unity train of 1991 looked a bit battered. On the Continent the word was: "Woe is Maastricht." The inability of the EC to agree was creating a crisis in confidence.

Even after the Edinburgh summit, there were many long faces. The summit, it is said, merely patched up the problems of unity. Some called it merely a cleanup operation.

Yet amid the post-summit gloom, it's well to remember that EC unity did not unravel or come apart. A number of small but important steps forward were taken. Denmark will get a special dispensation to keep a common defense and citizenship policy at arm's length, thus opening the way for a new referendum there. The "poor four" - Spain, Portugal, Greece, Ireland - will get a bit more support, though not all they sought. British Prime Minister John Major received assurances that Brussels will include a "subs idiarity" clause limiting the EC's power in national and local decisionmaking.

These are the kinds of baby steps Europe needs and ought to expect in a process as profound as creating a common state. German and French politicians may desire smooth engineering in the business of the EC. That keeps their populations feeling secure. But the creation of a diverse federal state cannot be accomplished by diplomatic blueprints. Flexibility is needed; that is what Edinburgh provided.

The summit's chief failure was its inability to find a formulation to recognize the former Yugoslav republic Macedonia in a way that Greece can live with. An unstable Macedonia is bad for the Balkans and ultimately a threat to Europe's security. EC nations should immediately begin a process of bilateral recognition.

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