Friday, 14 March 2008

Summit summaries

The European Union leaders’ summit has wrapped up in Brussels, and judging by the coverage it seems to have been a rather underwhelming affair. The FT’s Brussels Blog called it a “Ho-hum” affair. Yet there were two interesting developments from the summit, one involving French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plan for a ‘Mediterranean Union’ and the other involving Gordon Brown’s frank words over the coming economic crisis.

Sarkozy played up the Mediterranean Union discussions as a triumph for France, but the reality is the original proposed plan by France has been so watered down by the other EU nations that it’s almost unrecognizable. Germany has been illogically insisting that it be given membership to such a union even though it has no Mediterranean coast, and they seem to have gotten their way even though Sarkozy has vociferously opposed it. The whole concept has been a continuing source of hostility between the two nations, with both distrusting the motivations of the other. The Germans have objected to a Meditteranean coast-exclusive group because they fear it would break up the EU.

 But it was clear who got their way when at the close of the summit, Commission President JosĂ© Manuel Barroso seemed to go out of his way to stress that the MU would be a pan-European project.
Sarkozy’s press conference after the summit seemed to delusional in its assessment that France had been triumphant in the proceedings. But perhaps the most amusing part of his press conference was when he said of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with whom he has notoriously cold relations, "So really, as always you have to get to know someone, to make an effort. But look, it's pretty easy. She has my phone number, we send each other text messages." Text messages indeed…

Of course all of this naval-gazing about the Meditteranean Union is of little interest to the British, and the BBC’s Mark Mardell provided an account of what was most on the Brit’s minds: the economy. He notes that at the summit Gordon Brown seemed determined to persuade his colleagues that a full-court press response to the coming troubles in the world financial system, with regulatory and supervisory actions designed to insulate Europe from the coming storm, was not the way to go. But much of the talk at the summit centered around just this kind of talk. As of yet there’s been no report of their private financial discussions that I can find.

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Kalar said...
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