EC begins effort to unify its members in federation

December 16, 1990|By Diana Jean Schemo | Diana Jean Schemo,Sun Staff Correspondent

ROME -- The European Community took a major step yesterday toward transformation from a trading bloc into a powerful body of common political, security and economic policies.

The EC set up two intergovernmental conferences, one to focus on political union and the other on economic and monetary union among the 12 member nations, that will effectively rewrite the 1957 Treaty of Rome, opening the way for the community to become a federation of states.

Its citizens would share a common European citizenship, in addition to their national citizenships, and eventually trade their francs, lire and deutsche marks for a single currency, with monetary policy fixed by a central bank.

The community took tangible steps toward common political and economic policies yesterday:

[The member countries formally ratified their decision Friday to give Moscow $1 billion in immediate emergency aid and to authorize perhaps $1.4 billion more in technical assistance in 1991 and 1992, the New York Times reported.

[They told Iraq once again that it must withdraw from Kuwait. Baghdad, they warned, bears responsibility for ensuring peace in the Persian Gulf.]

And they agreed to lift the ban on new investments in South Africa that had stood since 1986, in recognition of South African President F. W. de Klerk's reforms of apartheid.

The two-day European summit here was the first in 11 years without Britain's former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, and community leaders appeared eager to begin relations with her successor, John Major, on a smooth footing.

Mr. Major, while saying yesterday that he would remain faithful to some of Mrs. Thatcher's cautious policies toward European union, did not rule out Britain's eventually accepting a single European currency and surrendering monetary authority to a central European bank, as Mrs. Thatcher had in October.

Then the 11 European Community leaders meeting here announced plans for the creation of a central bank by 1994 and a single European currency by 1997, in a document marked by brackets and asterisks denoting British opposition. This weekend, Britain appeared to have climbed aboard.

"Compared with [an earlier session], we've moved a long way forward and left all the asterisks behind," said a delighted Gianni de Michelis, the Italian foreign minister.

Jacques Delors, the European Community president, appeared to extend a peace offering to Mr. Major in the form of a draft treaty for monetary union that left the door open to a British proposal for using an alternative European currency unit as a bridge to a single currency.

Though the shape of a more tightly integrated Europe remains to be hammered out at the two so-called intergovernmental conferences, heads of state in their final communique took a federative approach to greater unity, rather than immediately surrendering national sovereignty to a single, supranational body.

The instructions community leaders gave the intergovernmental conferences reserved ultimate authority over the evolving European union for the heads of state themselves, rather than handing power directly to the European Parliament or the European Commission, the community's quasi-executive branch.

The final declaration called on the intergovernmental conferences to consider progressively granting the European Parliament some legislative powers, which it does not now have.

It also would give the European Parliament the right to approve the appointment of the commission president, currently appointed by the heads of state.

In concrete terms, the intergovernmental conference on economic and monetary union will be chaired by 12 finance or economic ministers appointed by each government. The conference on political union will be chaired by the 12 foreign ministers.

The conferences will meet every week at the expert level, with monthly meetings by national ministers, to draft new constitutions for political and monetary union. The constitutions are expected to go to the national parliaments for ratification next fall, with final approval expected by the end of 1993 -- a year after Europe is slated to remove its internal borders to become a single market.

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