THE European Community begins a two-day summit meeting in Strasbourg, France, on Dec. 8 that will gauge the 12-nation organization's commitment to economic and political integration. While British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is expected to pursue her one-woman stand against key integration measures, all eyes will be on West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Leaders are anxious to see how recent events in Eastern Europe, especially in East Germany, will influence Bonn's position in the Community - and its stance on European monetary union.
The meeting, which culminates the six-month European Council presidency of French President Fran,cois Mitterrand, will consider Mr. Mitterrand's call for an intergovernmental conference in the second half of 1990 to set a timetable for ratification of a treaty on monetary union. European Commission President Jacques Delors wants the ratification - the final step before a single European currency and central bank - by the end of 1992, when the single European market takes full effect.
Those steps are opposed by Thatcher and viewed warily by the Bundesbank, West Germany's central bank, which is considered by many to be Europe's de facto central bank.
The 12 leaders are also expected to consider the Community's aid program for Eastern Europe, including Mitterrand's proposal for a joint investment and development bank to assist the East's economic reform. Mitterrand says that quickening EC unification is the best way to ensure a strong Western Europe capable of responding to the East. He also sees integration as the best way to anchor Bonn to a stable Western Europe.
Most observers believe Kohl will back Mitterrand. After his speech before the Bundestag last week outlining a plan for eventual German reunification, the chancellor is expected to use the summit to demonstrate West Germany's commitment to the Community and, more broadly, to the West. That support, however, could come at the price of an even greater East European aid.
The case for continued EC unification received a tacit endorsement from President Bush earlier this week. After his meeting with NATO leaders on Dec. 4, he told journalists that rapidly changing conditions in Europe required a ``continued, perhaps even intensified effort for the 12 to integrate.''
Bush's comments further isolated Thatcher, who faces opposition in her own party over what is perceived as her anti-Europe stance. Thatcher insists however, that she is not opposed to continuing EC integration, but to steps that in her view would result in less democratic accountability for Europeans just when they are encouraging democratic reform in Eastern Europe.
She is also expected to be the only leader to oppose an EC ``social charter,'' a document setting forth nonbinding principles centered on workers' rights.
Some observers in and out of the EC bureaucracy say they find Thatcher's opposition incomprehensible, since British influence over European affairs could be enhanced by further integration. Many of these people admit that misgivings from West Germany, as it stands on the threshold of greater European power, are more understandable.
``I can understand a German hesitancy,'' says one EC official, ``although I think they'll finally understand that further integration within the Community is to their advantage, too.''
Some French analysts have also said it would be unrealistic to expect Germany to bind itself to the Community in any way it considered detrimental to the free exercise of its economic and political advantages in the East.
An EC official notes, however, that West Germany carries on 60 percent of its foreign trade with other EC members, and in no way do anything to jeopardize its position'' in the EC.