Thursday, June 15, 2006

Brussels Dinners

By now, the heads of state and government of the European Union should be heading for their dinner to discuss the future of the constitutional treaty, while their foreign ministers are heading to theirs to discuss the issue of Serbia.

I'm also in Brussels, although obviousoly heading for another dinner.

And so is the final summit of the Austrian presidency. Soon the Finns will take over.

In Luxembourg in the beginning of the week one managed to avoid an immediate crisis over the accession negotiations with Turkey - but in fact only postponed it until later this year.

The talks are not going particularly fast. With present speed I'm told that it will require somewhat more than 26 years to conclude the accession negotiations with Turkey. It's bizarre.

Among the big battles now are what will be said on further enlargement in the conclusions coming out of the European Council tomorrow. Omens are not good - the draft that Vienna has placed on the table is as restrictive as it gets, and while there is a substantial number of countries that want to delete most of this, there is at the least one big country that want to be even harder.

It all centers on the bogus concept of "absorption capacity".

So far, every enlargement has added to the powers, possibilities and policies of the European Union. You will be hard pressed to find anyone who even in private would like to see any of these enlargements undone.

Dark predictions that the new members would produce new political divisions and institutional stagnation have not come true. In fact, almost all the difficult political divisions are between the old members. It was - let's not forget that - France and Holland that shot down the constitutional treaty.

There is a tendency to blame other problems on enlargement. But the mailaise in France can not be blamed on the Hungarians or Estonians, and it would be most unfair to have the Serbs or the Turks punished for it.

Still, that's the tendency in some quarters.

Let's hope that the more optimistic and confident European forces assert themselves somewhat better in the coming hours.