EUROPEAN Commission President Jacques Delors is used to taking the center ring in moments of European crisis to cajole and pressure the European Community's 12 countries in directions he believes they should go.
Yet despite the wave of Euro-skepticism rippling across the Community, Mr. Delors is likely to maintain a fairly low profile at the EC summit in Lisbon June 26 and 27.
For one thing, Delors is up for an extension of his tenure, so it would be unbecoming for him to dominate the spotlight. Few doubt that the French Commission leader's tenure, which began in 1984 and runs through December, will be extended for two years.
The more important reason, however, is that Delors is philosophically at odds with the direction the EC is expected to follow at the two-day meeting.
The Lisbon agenda includes the EC's next round of enlargement; the Community's five-year budget; and the prickly issue of how to proceed with the Maastricht treaty on deeper political and economic integration after Denmark's "no" vote on the treaty earlier this month.
It is the issue of enlargement that most troubles EC "federalists" like Delors, who now see the chances fading of molding Europe into an effective, single-voiced world power. New member prospects
The enthusiasm with which several members of the European Free Trade Association are pursuing EC membership suggests the Community, even with its project for a single currency, has lost none of its attraction as an affluent, borderless market. But inclusion of such countries in the EC decisionmaking process, many of which have long nurtured policies of nonalignment and nonengagement, will undoubtedly affect ambitions for the EC to develop a strong international role.
EC leaders are expected to endorse opening negotiations in 1993 for membership of at least four countries: Austria, Sweden, Finland, and Switzerland. Their entry into the EC is now anticipated for 1995.
EC foreign ministers meeting last week approved in principle the opening of negotiations - but only on the conditions that the Maastricht treaty be ratified first, and that any new members accept the treaty's provisions, including a single EC money and a common foreign policy.
Britain, which takes over the Community's six-month presidency from Portugal in July and is a strong proponent of EC enlargement.
If the enlargement issue troubles Delors, it is not because he opposes accepting new members. But in the past he has made his conviction clear that a Community that already has trouble reaching decisions among 12 members could face paralysis unless a new round of institutional streamlining occurs before the EC takes on new members.
Barely had final negotiations on the Maastricht Treaty wound up in December, than Commission officials close to Delors were hinting that a "Maastricht II" of EC constitution revisions, including such revolutionary ideas as fewer Commission members (each country now has at least one), reduced power for smaller members, and an extension of decisionmaking by majority vote, would have to precede any enlargement. Delors, these sources say, considers a membership of 15 as the limit under current EC institution s.
To drive home his point, Delors in April promised an "intellectual shock" at the Lisbon summit over the question of institutional reforms required before enlargement. But that was before the Danes, whipped up by fears the Community was out to sacrifice small members in the name of efficiency, voted against Maastricht. No `intellectual shock'
This past weekend a contrite Delors admitted there would be "no intellectual shock" in Lisbon. In effect this means that the EC will go "wider" with more members before it goes "deeper" with institutional reforms to streamline decisionmaking.
The Maastricht treaty sets the next round of reforms in 1996, by which time the EC should include 16 or more countries. With most new members expected to be less "federal" philosophically than several of the Community's oldest members, many observers believe that enlargement before institutional reform weakens prospects for the EC to become an effective, single-voiced world power.
If EC leaders can pull themselves away from the Community's internal problems long enough, they are also expected to take up the conflict in the former Yugoslavia and the stalled "Uruguay Round" of trade talks.
To crown its six-month tenure, the EC's outgoing Portuguese presidency would like to find a solution to the months-old problem of the republic of Macedonia's name. The EC has been stopped from recognizing the republic's independence because the Greeks object to Macedonia's claim on a name that has historical significance for them, and which describes a region that falls in three countries.