Europeans Move Toward Consensus on Yugoslavia
THE European Community is moving with increasing speed toward recognizing the independence of breakaway Yugoslav republics, and may make official before the end of the year what some European officials believe is already a de facto recognition.Slovenia and war-ravaged Croatia are likely to be first in line to see their declared independence from the Yugoslav state blessed internationally, but others could follow closely. The issue that has sharply divided the EC's 12 members since last summer and which had cast dark clouds over next week's important EC summit in Maastricht, Netherlands, now seems less likely to threaten those proceedings. The precarious state of the United Nations-brokered cease-fire in the Yugoslav civil war - the UN's first - is part of the reason for the calming of the EC's pro-recognition forces. The more significant reason, however, is that Germany, the Community's weighty and once-impatient voice for swift recognition, is keen to avoid disrupting a summit it dearly wants to see succeed. The Maastricht summit is to culminate 12 months of difficult negotiations aimed at increasing the EC's economic and political integration. Once the two-day summit ends Dec. 10, however, Germany is expected to turn up the pro-recognition heat again, EC officials say. One target date could be Dec. 16, when EC foreign ministers are scheduled to meet. But pro-recognition forces within the Community have not been idle while waiting for the summit to finish. EC foreign ministers reinstated economic aid to four of Yugoslavia's six republics Dec. 2, a move strongly supported by Germany and Italy. The ministers had suspended Yugoslavia's share of EC-administered Western assistance to Eastern European democracies as well as more than $120 million in EC assistance on Nov. 8. The decision is meant to send an encouraging signal to Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina - Yugoslav republics the EC considers to have been "cooperative" in international attempts to forge a peaceful solution to Yugoslavia's civil war. A second message was sent to Serbia, and to a lesser extent to Montenegro, in the form of maintained sanctions which the ministers said could also be lifted once they had "evolved toward a more cooperative attitude." In a move further isolating Serbia as the aggressor in the conflict, EC monitors in Yugoslavia leaked a memorandum to the press in which they criticized the Serbian-led federal Army for attacks on unarmed civilian targets, and recommended that the EC use force to stop such acts. Concerns from Greece and France that the aid restoration would be construed as a reward for independence movements led the ministers to "underline that the adoption of these measures does not prejudice in any way the question of the republics' recognition." Still, Belgian Foreign Minister Mark Eyskens said after the decision that the EC would now establish "contractual relations" with the four republics, representing a "first step toward recognition." France, for its part, has moved steadily away from its original insistence that Yugoslavia remain intact. President Francois Mitterrand now says he believes in the independence of Slovenia and Croatia, but that it should be decided in an international context and after issues such as borders, settlement of refugees, and human rights are settled. Spain has also edged away from its jitteriness over pro-independence movements across Europe. "It's still dangerous for us," said one Spanish official Dec. 2, "given the strong autonomy movements in some of our regions. But we are not opposed to recognition for these republics if it's in a Community framework."