The European Union summit meeting broke up in extraordinary disarray Saturday with Britain, the continent's traditional maverick, standing alone against its 11 partners on the choice of a successor to Jacques Delors, the president of the European Commission and one of the continent's most influential power brokers.
The debacle left an impression of a body that, rather than exemplifying pan-European ideals, is again faltering because of the individual and competing political agendas of it members."I believe I have come to the right decision, and I will not change it," British Prime Minister John Major told European leaders when they met Saturday in a final, vain attempt to persuade him to accept Belgian Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene for the post. "My judgment will not change under any circumstances."
The British decision emerged after frenzied to-ing and fro-ing between a late-night dinner, formal meetings and private consultations, injecting strife and embarrassing division into a gathering supposed to spotlight successes - a trade deal signed with Russia on Friday and invitations for four more countries to join the European Union.
"There is no point in inviting me to reconsider," Major told the other Europeans, according to British officials, who explained the move by saying Britain had found Dehaene unacceptable and believed the process leading to his candidacy had been "defective."
If European governments do not now agree on a new candidate, British and German officials said, the succession issue will be taken up at a special European summit meeting on July 15 after Germany assumes the rotating, six-month presidency of the Union from Greece on July 1.
"The whole thing has now been dumped on our doorstep," said Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany.