Tuesday, October 19, 2004

G5 meeting becomes G3 + 2

It seems that there were several disagreements in Florence over matters to do with security, if you consider building refugee camps in Libya security. Astonishingly, France and Spain (the new Euro-duet) were the ones to oppose the construction of camps for would-be immigrants outside the EU. (As Ukraine made it clear that it wanted nothing of this plan and as Austria is not part of the G5, it was only the North African camps that were discussed.)

Germany and Italy, the movers of the plan, do not seem to be too happy about the fact that it has been sunk like some boat full of refugees off the coast of Italy. Britain, though taking the German-Italian side, seems to be a little less peeved.

Then there was the question of a new chief for Europol. That, too, has run into the sands but not because of some principled stand against something or other. As ever, the matter hinged on politics. Germany wanted to renew the founding director, J├╝rgen Storbeck’s mandate. The French, mindful of the constitutional rule that says every organization must have as its second chief a Frenchman, wanted to appoint a top flic, Jacques Franquet. So that ended in a stalemate as well.

However, there was one agreement and that is on digital fingerprints and photographs being introduced in 2006 to make EU passports more secure. The idea that digital photographs can make anything secure is slightly absurd, but they had to have an agreement about something.

What’s the betting the whole fiasco will be presented as a huge victory for Britain by the British minister reporting to Parliament, while it is clear from all accounts that the main falling out was between France and Germany? And isn’t it odd that while MEPs fulminate about the Italian Commissioner’s opinions on homosexuals and the position of women, they do not seem to care very much about his fervent support for refugee camps in Libya?

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