Friday, September 03, 2004

Not another summit!!!

Last week-end it was in Russia; next week in Spain; next month there will be a summit in France where France, Germany and Poland, the so-called Weimar Triangle will meet to discuss matters.

The one constant (or, rather two constants) in all this summitry is the presence of Chancellor Schröder and President Chirac. Rather like certain academics turn up at every conference, however tenuously connected with their subject, so these two leaders feel that no summit can be complete without their presence. Presumably, the fact that they are both seriously unpopular in their own countries adds to their desire to keep on having summit meetings, as yesterday’s International Herald Tribune put it, to “sketch out the face of a new Europe”.

On the other hand, it is a little hard to sketch out anybody’s face when there are serious disagreements between the various hands that hold the pencils. Aleksander Kwasniewski, the Polish President, for example, has been making comments about the need to change the way the European Union is developing.

Nothing very interesting in that, almost everybody is saying it, from the Conservative Party in the UK to various ministers on the Continent, without making any coherent suggestions as to how it is to be done. Mr Kwasniewski, for example, is very proud of the fact that he has managed to force some changes into the EU Constitution. Either he has not read the new version or his ideas of change are very small, indeed.

He is also determined that Poland should not miss out on what he considers a fair share of the regional funds for developing its infrastructure. Next week’s summit in Spain will be all about not taking money away from that country in order to give it to the new entrants. the theme of next month's summit will, presumably, be the opposite.

The biggest sticking point, however, in the Weimar Triangle discussions, will be the extent of the Union. Poland, Kwasniewski says, has no particular objections to Turkey coming in (while France and Germany do). However, if Turkey comes in then Ukraine must be considered as well.

Ukraine has not, so far, been even thought of as a candidate for accession negotiations for a whole series of social, political and economic reasons. In fact, as we have written before, the EU, worried about migration from the former Soviet republics, is plannig to put up a security fence between Poland and Ukraine.

The new East European members have a different attitude. For one thing, the borders are not well defined in that part of the world and both Poles and Ukrainians live on both sides of this particular one.

There is a worry about the fact that Russia is tightening its economic hold and political influence over most of the old Soviet republics and, mindful of their own fight for independence and political freedom, the Poles are reluctant to build another iron curtain, even though it would be on their eastern border.

It is unlikely that France and Germany will be receptive to any of these arguments but they will find that they may not be able to exclude the new members from their political reckonings. The drawing of that new face will be a fraught business.

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