Amid allegations of massive fraud swirling around the European Community's large farm subsidy program, the director-general of Britain's Institute of Directors, John Hoskyns, leveled far more serious charges, claiming the community's drive toward a single market showed "growing evidence of confused objectives, protectionism, cynical disregard of community rules, dreams of '60s-style social engineering, administrative incompetence, bureaucratic dishonesty and fraud."
"We had--and have--the makings of a fiasco," he predicted.
Even the smallest issues evoke bitter disputes.
West Germans were outraged when the community, in the interest of harmonization, tossed out a 16th-Century German law forbidding the sale of beer with additives and were quickly insulted further by a similar ruling on sausages.
Equally incensed French hunters recently turned out en masse to protest a European Community conservation measure curtailing the bird-hunting season by a third.
"Hunters: Fire on Europe!" the leading Paris daily Liberation urged.
Last year, a British member of the European Parliament, Carol Tongue, marshaled bird-loving Britons in a futile mini-crusade against community plans to slap a tax on birdseed.
Only the Italians seem unreservedly enthusiastic.
Can Only Improve
"What can be worse than what we already have here," chirped a senior civil servant in Rome during a discourse on Italy's bureaucratic morass.
But barriers are falling, and as they do, resistance to further change is certain to rise.
Indeed, commission officials believe one key reason for the European Community's present momentum toward 1992 is the widespread ignorance about just how sweeping the proposed changes really are.
It is only now beginning to sink in, for example, that exposing long-pampered national industries to the free-for-all competition of an open internal market will unleash nothing less than the restructuring of European industry.
"I get the sense that the business community is just now coming to grips with what's been happening," said Alfred H. Kingon, U.S. ambassador to the European Community.
Added West German economist Fels: "If the potential losers in this knew their fate, they could form a coalition to block it all. The uncertainty is the reformers' biggest benefit."
The current extent of protectionism is reflected in a single statistic: less than 2% of the estimated $300 billion in annual governmental contracts awarded within the 12 community nations goes to a company from a second country.
If business is just waking up to the revolution about to overtake them, the general population remains curiously asleep.
For despite the vast reach of the changes under way, ordinary Europeans remain largely detached from the developments that will shape much of their future.
As a gripping issue, 1992 is a flop. The British and Dutch governments are so concerned at the lack of awareness that they hired ad agencies to promote the issue. West Germany is considering the same.