Friday, June 01, 2007

The tempo quickens

In the classic pre-treaty minuet, in which the self-obsessed "colleagues" so love to indulge, the couples are drawing together as the dance comes to its conclusion.

In an upbeat report, Reuters tells us that, one by one, the pieces of Angela Merkel's European treaty jigsaw puzzle are slotting into place "three weeks before a decisive summit for the EU's future." The agency has it that a senior German official last week put the prospects of success at less than 50 percent, but one "EU ambassador" said the political stars were suddenly aligned for a deal.

El presidente Jose Manuel Barroso certainly seems bullish about Merkel being "well on the way to a deal" and is enjoying "crucial help" from Sarkozy.

However, according to The Financial Times, smiles turn to snarls when Barroso contemplates Britain, yesterday warning that "it would harm its own interests" if it blocked a deal at the European Council. Failure to get a deal would cost Europe credibility and distract attention from priority issues in London such as fighting climate change and securing a world trade deal.

But, in the manner of a recalcitrant child being presented with last night's uneaten meal at breakfast, the prime minister-soon-to-be Gordon Brown has been told that, if he blocks a deal, "I have no doubt that this issue will not disappear unless it is solved."

Turning the screws, the Barroso has also warned Brown privately that if he fights a rearguard action against the new treaty this autumn it would seriously harm his relations with Ms Merkel and other European leaders.

And even Poland is getting the wagging finger. It should remember, says el presidente, that the EU – including the German presidency – was standing behind it in a row with Moscow over meat exports. "I hope Poland's leaders understand that solidarity is a two-way street," he says.

With that, he offers the prospect of a journey to the sunlit uplands, of creating a "virtuous circle" of global responsibility in which the world's leading economies embraced an agenda of tackling climate change, opening world markets and tackling global poverty.

So there you are, sign here guv and everything in the garden will be rosy … or else.

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