EC Leaders Seek More Coherent Role in Yugoslav Crisis
WITH Yugoslavia's cease-fire holding precariously as the country slips toward a redrawing of its borders, the European Community is closer to calling an international conference on Yugoslavia's future.Yugoslav authorities agreed last week to try to organize a national discussion of the country's future by today. But with no conference yet on the horizon, the task could fall to the EC. Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van den Broeck said Monday in Brussels that if the Yugoslav presidency is unable to arrange for negotiations among all concerned parties this week, "it is perfectly possible that the 12 [EC countries] will be called upon to convene an international conference on Yugoslavia's future." The Netherlands currently holds the Community's revolving six-month presidency. Confirming speculation that he wants to create a "greater Serbia" from parts of Yugoslavia, Serbia's President Slobodan Milosevic called this week for a new constitution that would lead to a smaller Yugoslavia grouping the country's Serbian populations. He has the backing of Montenegro and of some political groups in neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina. Mr. Milosevic's proposal chills Croatia's leaders, who fear their republic could face dismemberment at the hands of their stronger Serb neighbors. At the same time, however, it buoys Serb separatists holding large sections of Croatia after recent fighting. The Serbian leadership is not opposed to the independence of Slovenia, the northern republic which declared its independence along with Croatia June 25. But it opposes Croatia's independence as long as it includes southern regions largely populated by Serbs. Still smarting from accusations that it waited too long to take the Yugoslavian crisis seriously and that it then approached it with confused and hesitant signals, the EC is unlikely to wait long, in the event of a Yugoslav failure, before it moves to organize a conference. "We will wait to around the 15th [of August] to see what happens," a spokesman for the Dutch Foreign Ministry said Tuesday. "But the situation is very urgent, so we won't be waiting anything like two weeks." The EC foreign ministers could call an emergency meeting to organize such a conference any time. Their next regular meeting is Sept. 30. Yugoslavia agreed at an emergency meeting of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe Friday to try to organize its own conference this week. The EC offered its services to organize an international conference outside the country if Yugoslav efforts were fruitless. That approach differs from just a month ago, when the emphasis among most EC leaders was to maintain Yugoslavia's status quo at all costs. Now EC officials seem resigned to some refashioning of Yugoslavia's collection of republics and autonomous regions. What EC leaders want to guarantee now is that any redrawing of the country is done peacefully and with the agreement of the largest majority of Yugoslavs possible. They say any international conference will have to be accepted by all the Yugoslav parties concerned. The conference would insure that the weakest aren't left out, EC officials say. But they acknowledge that the time it could take to draw everyone to a conference table is likely to benefit of Serbia, which for now appears to have the upper han d in its desire to create a "Greater Serbia." European Community leaders still face disagreements of their own. Germany supports independence for Slovenia and Croatia, while France has historical ties to Serbia which, unlike its two neighbors, opposed Nazi Germany in World War II. Despite such differences, Mr. Van den Broeck - who has publicly blamed Serbian leaders for Yugoslavia's slide to violence - says Europe must find "a model and paradigm" for settling differences among nationalities. European states must work to "ensure that separatism is not the way ahead," he says.