BRUSSELS — * The collapse of Greece's conservative government last week is sending repercussions well beyond the borders of the southern Balkan country.
With Greece set to take the rotating six-month presidency of the European Community (EC) in January, concerns have deepened over who will be at the helm at a crucial time for Europe.
EC officials and other European leaders were already worried that Greece, caught in a nationalist surge since the outbreak of war in the former Yugoslavia, could further degrade the Community's poor image over its response to the Balkan conflict. Now the possibility that the next government will be more sensitive to Greek nationalist demands than that of outgoing Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis has augmented the concerns.
The government fell Sept. 9 after the withdrawal of deputies from Mr. Mitsotakis's New Democracy Party left the prime minister without a parliamentary majority. The deputies quit to join the party of former Mitsotakis Foreign Minister Antonis Samaras.
Mr. Samaras had been dismissed in March 1992 for his hard line on the issue of a name for the newly independent Macedonian republic, north of Greece. Greek nationalists consider the name ``Macedonia'' part of their heritage and its use by the Balkan republic dangerous. They also have been more sympathetic to Serbia and its proxies in the Bosnian conflict.
With elections scheduled for Oct. 10, the Socialist party of former Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou is ahead in opinion polls. The Socialists are calling for the defense of Greek nationalist interests.
As one EC official said Sept. 12, ``The feeling is we'd best get a certain number of Balkan issues settled before January,'' when the Greek EC presidency begins. The importance of the rotating presidency is primarily its ability to set agendas and to slow or speed up EC focus on certain issues.