Not too much was expected of the elections to the 10-nation European Parliament, the deliberative arm of the European Economic Community. And not too much should be read into the crazy-quilt pattern of results, in which conservatives gained in some countries and liberal forces in others.

But by voting against incumbent parties in such numbers, Europeans appear to be quietly searching for new directions in dealing with their continent's challenges. It needs more jobs for its citizens - particularly the young, whose unemployment rate is especially high. For the long run, it seeks to find a way to develop competitive new technological industries, as many nations of the Pacific Basin have done. The controversial question of US missiles on European soil remains.

New solutions ultimately may stem from the experience of today's political leaders, the fresh views of tomorrow's, or a combination. In any case, the time soon will come when the current European political leaders will be succeeded by a generation of men and women, probably neither liberal nor conservative by today's standards, unencumbered by the memory of World War II and its global consequences. To some, this last may be a matter of concern lest old friendships between nations be neglected. But it also will be a time of opportunity as new leaders, freed of the burden of past animosities, will be able to reach in all directions for continental - and world - accord.

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