22 SEPTEMBER 1961, Page 33

Waiting at the Church

4 1\ /NG at last taken the plunge and sent in her application form for the Common Mar- "et Club, Britain finds it a little disconcerting to be' sitting in the ante-chamber waiting for the "'embership secretary to appear to start nego- tiating, and to find that the members have not Yet even appointed him: all the comings and (1111gs, muttered confabulations and obvious Jealousies amongst the members, though no doubt similar to thdse that used to be glimpsed through the windows, take on a new interest ^01v that they concern her directly, and are diffi- cult to follow and rather disconcerting.

Hardest to .grasp is the full significance of the dispute within the Six about what role the Com- inun Market Commission should play in the el'oling negotiations. It reflects, in fact, the deli- cate internal balance of the Common Market, and the distinctly divergent views which are held 'bout how the Community should develop:. whether towards federation, which is the ideal of the 'Europeans' (with the Commission playing 4'1 increasingly important role), or I'Europc des n firiies favoured , by de Gaulle (reducing the ommission to the status of a purely technical b9dy).

It would seem at first that Article 237 is quite clear: the Council is to consult the Commission about applications for membership, but it is With the member States that the applicant has I° negotiate. But if the French would like to see the commission give its formal advice, and leave the negotiating to the governments, the Dutch '?ee it differently: the Dutch Foreign Minister, Ir. Luns, de Gaulle's traditional antagonist ‘ithin the Six, has stated that some way should b. e found of drawing the Commission into the negotiations. The Socialist group of the Euro- pean Parliamentary Assembly has gone further and said that the Commission should take part on a basis of equality, adding that this alone Would enable the Assembly itself to follow the negotiations, through its right of parliamentary 'llPervision of the Commission's activities. i ,:astlY, the Commission itself, anxious both to i'Iintain its position and to defend its concep.. 1°n of the Community, is determined .to play .4, full part in the negotiations. It has after all already negotiated with Greece (and wi,11 other s?untries seeking association) on behalf of. the ,lx: and from another point of view. the policies Which it is in the process of elaborating for the uotmon Market (and above all the common 'grieultural policy) are clearly going to come into the negotiations, and the Commission feels it .., must be there to defend them and to discuss Possible alterations. These considerations lie celliod its latest astute move in declaring that it ,.',Inuot give at the present stage the formal ad- o'lt:e requested by the Council on the British ap- „gallon : in other words, it interprets Article ,'• ' as meaning that it should give its opinion '11” n the substance of the conditions of admission, „°t oil the purely procedural request to start ,1 gotiat ions.

At a meeting last week of the Permanent Representatives, who prepare the decisions of the EEC Council, it seemed that the Governments might be prepared to accept the idea of some form of 'running consultation' of the Commission throughout the course of the negotiations.

Clearly the Six will have to take a decision at the meeting of the EEC Council on September 25: but for the moment views on how best to negotiate with Britain (and with Denmark, Ire- land and, probably, Norway) remain divided. The French want to keep the negotiations as 'inter-governmental' as possible; the Dutch, on the other hand, favour a permanent conference, presided over if possible by M. Spaak (who pre- sided over the work of the Six on the Rome Treaties), whilst the Germans might like to see Professor Hallstein himself presiding, as an in- direct means of ensuring the participation of the Commission. (This last idea would, however, almost certainly be anathema to the British Government, which sees in the President of the Commission the toughest opponent of any amendment of the Rome Treaty; the Govern- ment ,would probably prefer the French scheme, hoping for easier concessions at a ministerial- type conference.) Yet it is worth emphasising that such differences about procedure do not pre- vent the Six from being agreed on the need to preserve the essence of the Rome Treaty and not to compromise on the political content of EEC.

It was interesting to watch what happened at Frankfurt when the Socialist group of the Euro- pean Parliamentary Assembly met there recently; for these Socialist MPs are the ginger group of the European Parliament, which is itself always pressing for further progress towards a united federal Europe. Delegates from all over the Com- mon Market countries expressed approval of a `joint European Socialist programme,' uncom- promisingly federalist in tone and in detail, which is likely soon to be accepted by their national parties.

Even if the Parliamentary Labour Party does count some fervent 'Europeans' amongst its ranks, the abstention in the House, and Hugh Gaitskell's statement that opinion in this country was not ripe for any move towards a federated Europe, not to mention the speeches of those farther Left, show the breadth of the gulf separating the Labour Party from their Socialist brethren on the Continent. Nevertheless, the ex- perience of the German Social Democrats, who from being opponents of the Rome Treaty have been converted to ardent 'European' views now that Germany is inside, suggests that a radical and rapid change is possible once membership has been negotiated. Closer know ledge of how the 'Treaty is being applied, particularly in the field of free movement of labour and cartel legislation, may allay a lot of Left-wing fears, as will a realisation that the limitations of national sovereignty, even in the field of economic policy, will for a long time to come not be as sweeping as is feared. As for those who dislike

the idea of entering a Christian-Democrat, con- servative, Right-wing Europe, they are likely to realise that their best defence lies in the con- siderable solidarity and influence, at the Com- munity level, of the European Socialists, whose position the adhesion of the British and the Scandinavians would greatly strengthen.