Monday, May 17, 2004

It’s unravelling nicely

Agence France Press reports this afternoon that "EU constitution haggling could drag on: Britain". Straw has warned that the IGC could "fail to strike a deal on a long-disputed constitution at an EU summit next month". Repeating the Irish presidency mantra, he adds, "It's in the nature of these negotiations that nothing's decided until everything's decided."

Hinting at disagreement within the ranks of the foreign ministers, he told reporters, "There is no prospect of an overall agreement at least until the June European Council." Asked if he meant that the talks could drag on beyond then, he said: "There's always that possibility. I will make no promises, but we live in hope."

In the time honoured double-speak of international diplomacy, he went though the ritual of saying that all sides were committed to "a very constructive and positive approach" to the talks, but reiterated that London stands by its "red lines," notably refusing veto rights in tax, foreign affairs and defence issues.

Eupolitix has also weighed in with a story, observing that "time is tight" for a deal. It is indeed tight. Whatever is agreed over the next few days but be translated into 20 languages and circulated to the capitals of all 25 EU member states, with enough time for each government to consider their positions and respond. Only then can the agenda for the June summit be finalised, and this too must be translated and circulated.

Even given a large degree of accord, the sheer logistics of the operation are phenomenal but, where there are still outstanding huge areas of disagreement, the task looks almost impossible. Add to that, this is the first ever IGS summit where the heads of states and governments of twenty-five states will be gathered, and the odds of their reaching an agreement look increasingly remote. Altogether, the project looks to be unravelling nicely.

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