PARIS -- In what it called a goodwill gesture in its conflict with its European partners over beef sales, Britain, which has vowed to block European Union decisions until its partners lift a ban on British beef exports, allowed two key measures to go through yesterday.
British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind said at a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Luxembourg that Britain had decided to show its good will by voting for a European trade pact with Algeria and for an agreement to provide $3.6 million from the European Union to help pay for elections in Bosnia.
Last week, the British let pass an accord giving Slovenia an agreement of association with the European Union.
But Rifkind blocked 14 other measures that required unanimous agreement, most of them statements like a condemnation of Indonesian policy in East Timor.
The past few weeks have not been a crucial decision-making period for the European Union, weakening the effect of the British blocking tactics. Most of the vetoed measures are expected to come up again later, after the storm has passed.
But Prime Minister John Major, whose Conservative Party is running far behind the opposition Labor Party in the polls, has wrapped himself in the Union Jack to do battle against a favorite Conservative target: the European Union bureaucracy in Brussels, Belgium.
The noncooperation policy, he says, is intended to put pressure on the Europeans to lift the ban on exports of British beef, or at least to spell out a realistic plan of anti-disease measures that would lead to a rapid lifting of the ban.
The European Union imposed the ban March 27 after the British government said that eating food products made from diseased cattle was the most likely explanation for the unusual occurrence of a degenerative brain disease diagnosed recently in 11 patients.
Dutch Foreign Minister Hans Van Mierlo said yesterday that a three-stage plan that would allow the European Union's executive body, the European Commission, to produce a framework for eradicating the cattle disease could be agreed on in short order if Britain ended its obstructionism.
Pub Date: 6/11/96