The two constitutional conferences launched this weekend are expected to last well into next year, but already it is clear that most of the EC's 12 members are ready to move farther ahead on economic and monetary union than on political integration. EC leaders say they want any treaty revisions to have passed the required national parliament ratification by the end of 1992. Germany wants reforms, including a stronger participation of the European Parliament in Community decisionmaking, to be in place before the next European elections in 1994.
No matter how long they take, however, each conference must end in unanimity, which is why a certain sense of foreboding already looms over the economic conference. Britain stands alone in rejecting creation of a European central bank and a single European currency.
Unless some form of accommodation is developed, an 11 to 1 stalemate could provoke what EC Commission President Jacques Delors calls ``a political crisis.''
While reservations on political union are more widespread, all 12 agree that reform is needed now to develop a more efficient and democratic community.
Discussions will no doubt be tough between those, like the French, who want European leaders to maintain the EC's chief leadership role through the European Council, and others who want the Brussels-based Commission to become a more powerful executive. Battles will rage between those who favor strengthening the European Parliament and those wishing to enhance the role of national parliaments in Community affairs.
In the end, the compromises, at least on political union, will be just enough to keep everyone happy.