FACING rising public demands to save Sarajevo as well as today's United Nations Security Council meeting on the three-month-old siege, European Community leaders have agreed to support toughened measures - including military intervention if necessary - to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches Bosnia-Herzegovina's capital.
Meanwhile in a surprise move, French President Francois Mitterrand traveled to Sarajevo yesterday to try to secure a cease-fire, but he was forced to take cover in the airport when renewed fighting broke out.
With the United States and UN moving toward forced humanitarian assistance, Mr. Mitterrand's last-ditch attempt is designed to avoid international military intervention.
It also is a means of convincing European and especially French public opinion that Europeans can take action and are not dependent on the US to be effective in their own backyard.
Saturday's historic decision by the 12-nation Community envisioning participation in eventual UN-led military action in Sarajevo was reached after hours of difficult discussion and was taken with no enthusiasm.
For one thing, the Yugoslav debate pulled European leaders' focus away from internal issues, including a response to Denmark's recent rejection of a pending treaty for deeper EC integration, a divisive budget debate, and the next round of Community enlargement. There also was some discomfort that the Yugoslav crisis is forcing the EC into decisions it is not ready for.
"[The Community] has reached a fork in the road a little before the fork in the road," said Mitterrand, speaking for those in the EC who say too much is expected of a community of nations whose political development is still only "embryonic."
In suggesting possible military action in Bosnia, EC leaders were firm that every effort should be made first to secure a cease-fire around Sarajevo's airport.
Mitterrand said any European participation in eventual military action would be through Western European Union forces.
As in the past, the British remained most reluctant to consider a military option. "We are anxious to deal with the problem," said British Prime Minister John Major, but "we are equally aware of the very grave difficulties [of] proceeding in the absence of a proper cease-fire."
Although EC leaders settled neither their ongoing budget debate nor the problems presented by Denmark's "no" vote on the Maastricht Treaty, they did agree that official negotiations for the membership of at least four new Community members - Austria, Sweden, Finland, and Switzerland - can begin in 1993. But they stipulated that Maastricht must be ratified and a budget solution found before the membership talks can start.
The issues of Maastricht and the EC budget are intimately intertwined. When the EC completed negotiations on the Maastricht Treaty in December, it agreed that its four poorest members - Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Greece - should receive additional Community money, called "cohesion" funds, to offset the hardships of meeting the treaty's requirements for monetary union and to ensure that development disparities among EC countries continue shrinking.
Since then, however, domestic budgetary difficulties have struck even the Community's wealthiest members, such as Germany, and proposals for doubling development aid have been rebuffed.
German Chancellor Helmut Kohl warned his colleagues that a commitment to a major increase in EC spending would damage chances for parliamentary ratification of Maastricht in his country, where public sentiment has already turned against the costs of Germany's reunification.
But Spanish Premier Felipe Gonzalez Marquez, leading the camp of poorer countries, said that failure to make a specific commitment to higher development spending could encourage an anti-Maastricht sentiment in Spain and elsewhere.
"I think Felipe was disappointed that Kohl didn't show the same strong support now for the cohesion money that he did when the [Maastricht] Treaty was negotiated," said one Spanish observer. "It was Kohl who pulled the wealthier countries behind this concept before, but now he's not so strong."
C leaders may not have addressed the legal issues posed by Denmark's rejection of the Maastricht Treaty - by EC law new treaties must be ratified by all members - but they did indicate a desire to respond to some of the criticisms of the EC that led to the Danish vote.
The perception runs high in Denmark and elsewhere that the Community is an undemocratic, bureaucratic monster with little contact with most EC citizens. Acknowledging that, the leaders reinforced the principle that EC governmental business should be carried out at the closest possible level to citizens.
Specifically, they decided on a two-pronged measure not only requiring that all new Community legislation and initiatives pass the "lowest possible government level" test, but also mandating a full review of existing Community rules to ensure - and reassure the public, it is hoped - that a centralized bureaucracy is not usurping local and national powers.
The leaders also called for a strengthening of the dialogue between the European Parliament and national parliaments.
"The British have pushed very hard for a less intrusive Community," said Mr. Major, and "we have won agreement here ... to turn that principle into a living reality over the months ahead."
The British, who take over the EC's six-month presidency from the Portuguese in July, say they hope an emphasis on this kind of measure will help the Danish reconsider their rejection of Maastricht before the year ends.