West Germany's New Year's resolution as the incoming president of the European Community is to combat unemployment and rekindle the idealistic vision of a united Europe. Both tasks are daunting.
In a statement Jan. 1 keynoting Bonn's half-year assumption of the rotating EC presidency, West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher called in particular for a signed ''European Act'' that would give new impetus to the concept of European political union. As part of this togetherness he also urged the EC to proceed with plans to admit Spain and Portugal as members.
As West Germany takes over from Denmark the steering of the informal but effective coordination of joint EC foreign policy, Mr. Genscher will at least have a chance to promote actively his two-year-old idea of a European declaration. He will be encountering formidable obstacles, including a new Danish-EC fish war, the worst world recession in half a century - and widespread European indifference to his proposal.
Under these circumstances Bonn may have to scale down its ambitious goals and consider itself fortunate just to hold the dikes against rampant protectionism and erosion of Europe's present economic cooperation.
The fish war opened on Jan. 1, after Danish fishermen forced their government to reject new restrictions that all nine other EC members had agreed to - after a ten-year dispute - for 1983. The focus is on Danish mackerel fishing within the 12-mile territorial limits off the coast of Scotland; Britain has mobilized 22 Navy and other ships and Air Force units to keep Danish trawlers out.
Beyond the specific fishing dispute looms the rising protectionism that is pushing France in particular away from free trade practices. So far the EC has managed to restrict protectionism to external trade (as, for example, in the EC's refusal to open its highly protected agricultural market to more food imports from America, or in France's recent arbitrary reduction of Japanese video imports to a trickle). This mood of drawing up the wagons militates against any closer intra-European economic cooperation, however. And it has made France seek to postpone as long as possible the EC entry of Spain and Portugal, with their Mediterranean agricultures that rival France's.
Similarly, Paris's fierce defense of EC agricultural subsidies for French farmers still seems to be blocking any long-term settlement on a fair EC budget share for Britain, a country with severe economic problems that is nonetheless the only net contributor to the EC apart from West Germany.
So far even staunchly free-trade West Germany has been unwilling to confront France either on protectionism or on the agricultural budget. West Germany as EC paymaster would benefit from limiting the two-thirds of the EC budget that goes for farm subventions.
With 10 percent unemployment and some 16 million jobless in the EC countries, and with economic prospects for 1983 stagnant, it is also hard to see what West Germany and the EC might do to promote jobs. West German hopes rest primarily on improving coordination of national economic policies and more active use of EC regional and social development programs. Unemployment is still expected to get worse before it gets better, however.