BRUSSELS -- European Community members will hold their semiannual summit here this week, where it is virtually certain there will be another indecisive clash over nagging internal and international issues.
A final round of shuttle diplomacy was underway among member countries last week to try to avoid another struggle over cash and farm surpluses.
But fresh from recent reelection victories that strengthened their hands, the British and West German leaders appeared determined to risk another embarrassing deadlock to press their priorities at the Brussels gathering Monday and Tuesday.
Clashing interests on a number of issues could not only affect the relationship among the 12 members, but could also lead to increasingly tense trade relations with the United States, other developed nations and many Third World countries.
If the summit fails, according to some, it could lead to both budgetary crises and a "two-speed Europe," with members choosing which joint activities they will participate in, resulting in even greater disunity.
Editorializing last week, London's Financial Times remarked, "The European Community has become so accustomed to the spectacle of ministerial meetings which reach no decisions that the prospect of another sterile encounter has almost ceased to shock; yet seldom have expectations been so low, or the auguries so depressing."
"Europe is on the verge of a crisis," said Jacques Delors, France's former finance minister who is now the president of the EC's executive commission. "It's not the first time."
Delors warned that if difficult decisions are not made this week, he will propose drastic reductions in spending. But he also acknowledged that "there are about four or five different concepts of what the community should be in the coming years."
Delors, along with Belgian Prime Minister Wilfried Martens, who will chair the summit under the EC's rotating leadership structure, have been visiting other European leaders to argue their largely harmonized views to sometimes critical hosts.
Some participants fear that the summit could bog down either in a detailed technical debate on farm "Europe is on the verge of a crisis. It's not the first time."
-- Jacques Delors
prices and taxes on animal feed, according to sources, or in a seminar on more distant institutional or economic priorities.
Delors and Martens say the controversy over this season's farm prices and what many feel is a discriminatory and protectionist levy on billions of dollars worth of animal feed protein additives can only be resolved after broader priorities have been established.
Martens said he had received the backing of the Italian, Spanish and Portuguese governments. But reports of his meeting with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher indicated she firmly opposes additional funding for either farm or research programs until the agricultural system is drastically reformed.
The previous summit last December in London, with Thatcher presiding, carefully avoided tackling most of these issues and focused instead on AIDS and other topics.
According to Danish Foreign Minister Uffe Ellemen-Jensen, whose country will take over the leadership of EC institutions in July, the most that can be expected at this week's summit is guidance from the leaders on some of the far-reaching decisions.
Some of these could determine if the group will continue to be dominated by farm programs, which consume some 65 percent of the $30 billion annual budget, or if it will expand into new high-technology joint activities.
In recent weeks, the group's agricultural ministers have been unable to establish annual prices for this year's farm products. The chief obstacle has been their failure to agree on a controversial proposal to raise additional funds by levying a new tax on fats and oils destined for animal feed.
The United States has charged the plan is designed to cut the estimated $2 billion worth of soybean products sold annually to Europe in order to increase demand for surplus European olive oil. Asian countries have complained the tax would hurt their sales of palm and coconut oil. Major soybean importers, such as Holland, Germany and Denmark, also have opposed the new tax.
Its backers deny the proposal would discriminate against imports.
Germany, while also advocating a major farm overhaul, has been insisting on continued subsidies to its own farmers. French farm minister Henri Guillaume, in an interview last week, remarked, "They want limits and quotas on production, whereas we want a dynamic, performing, exporting agricultural sector."
But he acknowledged that the European leaders, even his own president, Francois Mitterrand, were "not very hot to take on these subjects" in a summit.
Many of the leaders would prefer to map out broad strategies for coping with industrial and technological competition, for their ambitions of creating a vast, unified market of 320 million consumers by 1992 and for adjusting to last year's enlargement of the group to include Spain and Portugal.
Delors said such planning is essential, but insisted that if the summit fails to deal with the farm and tax proposals, he will be forced to seek 30 percent cuts in the EC budget for agriculture and 50 percent reductions in other programs.