Sunday, May 16, 2004

In the bubble

Despite the loss of the vote of confidence in the Polish parliament, Danuta Huebner, Poland's newly appointed European Commissioner, is carrying on as if nothing had happened. She is saying that she is "optimistic" about an agreement on the constitution, ahead of the June summit.

And, contradicting the statements of Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, their foreign minister, both president Kwasniewski and the caretaker premier Belka are, according to Huebner, also seeking a conclusion before the summit. Says Huebner, Kwasniewski "is clearly for a compromise", adding that Belka "strongly supports a conclusion of the negotiations".

How much of this is simply spin, or wishful thinking, remains to be seen. The Irish presidency documents were only issued late on Thursday, comprising 99 detail-packed pages, so it hardly seems possible that any of these three have had time for detailed analysis of the new proposals, or for a considered exchange of views – especially as Belka and Kwasniewski must have been preoccupied with the confidence vote drama. Huebner, it seems, might be occupying her own little bubble, insulated from the realities of thos world.

Meanwhile, despite the crucial nature of the foreign ministers’ meeting on Monday and Tuesday, both the Observer and the Independent on Sunday today seem to devoid of any news or speculation on it, as indeed is the Sunday Times. Of the four English broadsheets, only the Sunday Telegraph, as predicted, covers the story, and then in a highly truncated form.

It speculates that Blair's referendum timetable could be delayed because "a summit to seal a deal on the treaty next month is under threat." Political editor Patrick Hennessy reports that "Ministers believe that the meeting, scheduled for Brussels, could be scrapped because EU states are wrangling over the constitution".

"Downing Street", he writes, "has vowed to do whatever is necessary to safeguard national interests, including taxation, defence and foreign affairs. A more serious threat, however, comes from other nations who cannot agree on fundamental issues, such as voting rights for member states after 10 new countries joined the EU this month. Such an outcome would delay a deal for at least six months, with a fresh summit called at the end of the year."

"Downing Street hopes to get the EU constitution through Parliament by summer 2005, before holding a referendum shortly after the next election. Failure by the EU to agree to the constitution before the end of the year would deal a severe blow to the referendum timetable."

That is all you get – even the Scotsman disappoints. Swamped by Iraq, the abuse stories, and related matters, the media has given up reporting news which is of vital, long-term interest to everyone in this nation.

Like Poland’s commissioner Huebner, today’s editors seem obsessed with their own agendas, also living in their own little bubbles. It is hard to recall any similar period when the public has been so badly served.

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