As members of the 12-nation European Community gather in West Germany this week, they are considering financial moves that would make the 12 governments more like a single country - significant steps toward the long-held ideal of a "United States of Europe."
Wrangling over farm subsidies, membership fees, and other economic questions has kept the community occupied in recent years, but most of those issues have been at least partially resolved and the EC is looking at where it goes next.That makes this year's meeting important. Two major items being discussed are () the establishment of an independent central bank, outside the control of any individual nation, much the same way the federal reserve is independent of the U.S. government, and () the creation of a single European Community currency to replace the pound, the franc, the peso, the mark, and all the other national kinds of money.
Neither proposal is expected to sail through this session. Britain has resisted steps to link the British pound to other European currencies through the existing European Monetary System, and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sees the idea of a central bank as a threat to her country's sovereignty.
But the seeds are being planted. And if the EC meets its goal of abolishing all tariffs between the members by 1992, allowing the free movement of capital, goods, services, and workers between member nations, much the same way they do among the 50 American states, then a central bank and one kind of money will grow more appealing.
When the so-called Common Market was fashioned by six European nations in the years following World War II, the goal was someday to establish a political union. That original idea has lost much of its viability since the EC subsequently expanded to include 12 countries.
But even if the EC stops short of a political union, the community continues to grow closer in economic and trade terms. The meeting in West Germany this week - no matter how it ends - offers a clear sign that the EC is still in the process of becoming something more than it now is.