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EC Summit Chairman Asks for Compromise

December 04, 1987|From Reuters

COPENHAGEN — Denmark made a final appeal on Thursday for a compromise to save the European Community summit in Copenhagen from embarrassing failure.

As heads of government began arriving for the two-day meeting starting today, Danish Prime Minister Poul Schlueter said that only by putting aside national self-interest could they stop the Community's headlong rush into insolvency.

"All of us must realize that besides wishing to take care of our nations' own interests, we have a joint purpose--to achieve the kind of result acceptable to the whole European family of nations," summit Chairman Schlueter told a news conference.

"It's going to be a difficult meeting, very difficult," he said. "It must be a matter of give and take to find the balance and compromise."

Europe's Role at Issue

But the atmosphere was gloomy on the eve of the summit.

Failure to agree on a new financial framework would lead to the Community facing a $6-billion-dollar budget shortfall next year. But the 12 member states cannot agree on a solution.

Schlueter said failure would be all the more embarrassing only three days before the U.S.-Soviet summit in Washington and against a background of turmoil on world financial markets.

"The real problem around which everything revolves is the role we want Europe to play in the world in the years ahead," Schlueter said.

He said he would keep his fellow leaders around the conference table Saturday night for as long as was necessary to forge an agreement. "It will be a long meeting, I am sure about that," Schlueter added.

Denmark has urged its partners to focus on key issues--how much money does the EC need, how should the cost be shared, how much should be spent on the poorer members and how can spiraling farm subsidies be curbed.

But diplomats say there are so many elements in the package, each of which is of vital importance to one government or another, that it is difficult to see how Schlueter will be able to orchestrate simultaneous concessions from all parties.

Most agree that British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who defied the consensus among the other 11 leaders at the last summit in Brussels six months ago, is again determined to have her way on controlling farm spending before agreeing to higher contributions to the community budget.

Cold Porridge

Britain says Schlueter will not succeed in Copenhagen if he sticks to his plan to postpone detailed discussions on agricultural stabilizers--mechanisms to cut prices automatically if output exceeds set limits.

"If all the agricultural issues cannot be resolved in Copenhagen, I do not think that decisions can be taken on the other issues on the table," a British official said.

The meal may look as unpalatable as a dish of cold porridge, he said, but it will taste even worse if it is left to be eaten later.

But the other major players--France and West Germany--under pressure from powerful farming lobbies, also appeared increasingly entrenched in their positions, the diplomats said.

French President Francois Mitterrand has urged the summit to approve a budget and defy a "supercilious Britain, which demands brazen restrictions on finances except when the funds are to go to Britain."

Thatcher also comes to Copenhagen determined to express her anger at French and Irish actions that she believes have broken Community solidarity against international terrorism.

She rebuked the Irish for trying to insert new safeguards into an extradition treaty and branded a French deal with Iran to secure the release of hostages as a "treaty with terrorism."

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