Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Whom do you believe?

As they say, you pays your money and you takes your choice. On the one hand, we are told by Brian Cowen, the Irish Foreign Minister that the chances of an agreement on the Constitution are quite good, adding that the talks the Foreign Ministers held on Monday (May 24) were “constructive”. That is only one stage better than frank and open, but, at least, one presumes the Ministers did not come to blows.

In fact, Cowen was in a very good mood. Or so we think, as it is not entirely clear what he meant when he told the press conference:

"Things are going as we planned them and we hope that by the time we get there... we will be down in broad measure to final political agreement on the major issues, and on that basis we'll be able put a full text that would meet with agreement."

Not to be outdone in obscurantist phraseology, Jack Straw told the same gathering of pressmen and women that he was being “incrementally satisfied” on Britain’s “red lines”. And before you ask, no, I don’t know what that means.

On the whole, though, there seems to be some satisfaction emanating from the Irish corner and a general feeling of let the wind blow where it will from the British one. Enter the Poles, as usual. The Polish Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz thought that it was unlikely that there would be an agreement on the vexed question of voting rights, not to mention the rather difficult one of Christian traditions (though not, as he put it, Christian values) becoming part of the Constitution.

The Foreign Ministers are due to have another meeting on June 14-15, for another, allegedly final, show-down about the text that will go to the Summit on June 17-18, the last of these dates, as we keep pointing out, being Waterloo Day. It is odd, though, to recall that the Nice Summit, which had a much more limited programme was scheduled for four days and eventually took up five. For an agreement on an interminably long, difficult and controvesial constitution only two days are scheduled. Whose planning is that?

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