Opponents of greater integration in Western Europe won their battle to preserve national sovereignty Dec. 3 when a European Community summit agreed to only minimal changes in the group's founding treaty. Britain, Denmark, and Greece were already putting up strong resistance to moves to amend and supplement the 1957 Treaty of Rome when a review was agreed on at the June summit in Milan.
The two-day summit here showed resistance to any major dilution of sovereignty was not limited to these three nations. France, West Germany, and Ireland proved to be equally reluctant to cede national prerogatives.
Only Italy and the three Benelux states -- Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg -- were eager for measures that would effectively curb the veto rights of member governments and set up the European Parliament as a legislative overlord in the European Community, diplomats said.
The original aim was to get the first-ever changes of the 28-year-old treaty in place before Spain and Portugal join the Community next year. But the changes still have to be ratified by national parliaments of the 12 states.
``The summit has once again proved that only a few states in Western Europe are prepared to see the rise of a United States of Europe,'' one senior diplomat said.
Danish Prime Minister Poul Schluter's description of the summit result as sensational reflected the delight of opponents of greater integration.
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was less euphoric, although she pointedly told a news conference that the results could all have been achieved without treaty change.
The British leader had angered her colleagues at the Milan summit by describing the whole exercise as pointless. Treaty changes have to be agreed unanimously and states cannot be forced to accept them, she said.
A main aim of the review was to smooth decision making, which has been virtually paralyzed by the right of veto, and was expected to become even more unwieldy with the EC's enlargement next year.
French President Franois Mitterrand said last week that the summit had not lived up to his expectations and Paris would continue the struggle for a more integrated Europe.
But diplomats said that France, and its close Community partner West Germany, had fought hard alongside Britain to keep enthusiastic supporters of change in check.
Bonn also joined Copenhagen in insisting that members should be able to bar imports from other EC states in order to maintain higher standards of consumer and environmental protection.
Britain and Ireland insisted on retaining strict import controls to keep out animal and plant diseases.
``Between them they have driven a coach and horses through the new treaty provisions on completing the Common Market,'' one official said. He was referring to a commitment to dismantle barriers to the free movement of goods, services, capital and workers by 1992.