THE biannual summit of European Union leaders, held over the weekend in this German industrial city, seems to have made the best of a difficult situation.
Turmoil over the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina has generated tensions throughout the union. And domestic troubles in several member states -- including Britain, Ireland, and Italy -- have aggravated them. The summit could have ended in a debacle of divisiveness.
But EU leaders for the most part forged consensus, pulling the Continent (at least temporarily) out of a nose dive. The summit didn't delve into specifics, but it dispelled doubts that Western Europe lacked the ability to take action in the Balkans and Central Europe.
''I hope the lack of a row isn't too great a disappointment,'' British Prime Minister John Major, his voice full of sarcasm, told journalists Saturday.
EU leaders at Essen appeared to recover from the staggering blows to the peace effort in the former Yugoslavia, inflicted by the Bosnian Serbs' recent assault on the northwestern enclave of Bihac. They resolved to continue the search for a negotiated settlement. They also signaled a desire to patch over their differences with the United States, particularly concerning President Clinton's move to stop enforcing the arms embargo on Bosnia.
Many EU nations -- including France, Britain, Spain, and the Netherlands -- have troops in UNPROFOR, the United Nations peacekeeping force in Bosnia. In the days before the summit, the withdrawal of the UN peacekeepers was a hot topic, due in large part to the dispute between Europe and the US.
But now it looks as though the UN soldiers will remain in Bosnia. In a communique, EU member states said they were determined to keep their military contingents in Bosnia as part of the UN peacekeeping effort.
''The general view was to put a brake on the movement of countries in UNPROFOR toward leaving,'' French President Francois Mitterrand said.
Mr. Major added that no EU member would make a unilateral decision to withdraw its contingent from Bosnia, saying ''the ground mission should continue as long as possible.''
MEANWHILE, in a significant achievement for German Chancellor Helmut Kohl EU members endorsed a plan to expand into the formerly Communist nations of Central Europe. Leaders of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and Romania attended the summit's final session.
''This was a historic occasion for the European Union and Europe as a whole,'' said Mr. Kohl, who hosted the summit. ''At the end of 1994, we have no reason to lapse into Euro-pessimism.''
The plan provides no specific details on how the EU will pay for expansion. It instead concentrates on ways to raise the economies of Central European states to Western European levels.
Kohl said the plan was meant to send a ''clear signal'' that the EU was committed to helping bring Central Europe into the ''common European house.'' He added that the EU had to take Russian sensitivities about eastward expansion into account.
''We don't want to create new battle lines and a second cold war, so we have to take care that Russia doesn't misinterpret out actions,'' Kohl said.
Most Central European leaders said they were satisfied with the plan. ''It is indeed a clear signal,'' Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus told the Monitor. ''This is what we were expecting.''