Wrangling in the European Community over the Yugoslav crisis shows that the EC is far from united on an issue as basic as national independence. Major EC members--France, Italy, Britain, and Spain--rejected Germany's proposal to recognize the independence of Croatia and Slovenia. Why? They don't want to encourage other separatists in Eastern Europe--and within their own borders.

With no homegrown separatists to worry about, Germany has exempted Slovenia and Croatia from economic sanctions that the EC levied as pressure to end the strife. This go-it-alone approach has angered other members. Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van den Broek, the current EC council president, complains that German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher is trying to upstage the EC.

Such squabbling points out how elusive is the EC goal of political union. And some members worry that the Germans, who say they want bigger responsibilities to match their expanded size, are now overreaching.

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