Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A glimmer of intelligence

Although one should not get too excited, it seems that El Presidente Barroso has got the point – unlike some of his confrères.

David Rennie, in the Telegraph, is telling us that the man has distanced himself from the calls to revive the EU constitution, not least from the attempts by the Austrian presidency to revive the corpse.

Barroso pours cold water on talk of a swift return of the constitution, enjoining EU leaders to look at the wider "context" of its rejection, "not to look obsessively at the text". He warns against "a fresh bout of institutional navel-gazing" that "would only expose deep divisions within Europe".

In this, the commission president has a fervent supporter in Denis MacShane, who recently told UPI that an attempt to revive the constitution "tel quel" would produce a revolt amongst European citizens whatever the view of the European political elite. "The Totentanz is fine for gothic horror stories but climbing into the coffin of the corpse of the constitution is taking necroeurophilia too far," he says.

However, what Barroso has to offer instead is not much better. He proclaims that 2006 "can and should be the year of a new drive for Europe", adding that the drive should focus on "what matters to people", which was economic growth and job creation.

Actually, what matters even more to people, and is a precursor to "economic growth and job creation", is peace and security - about which Barroso and his precious commission can do little.

That, at the moment, is resting in the hands of all five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the US, Britain, France, China and Russia – who earlier today delivered diplomatic démarches to Iran's mission in Vienna, calling on Tehran to step back from its threat to resume its programme of nuclear "research and development".

In response, Iran is showing every sign of ignoring such entreaties, leaving the EU3 with nothing much left in their locker than to threaten "breaking off exploratory talks" between the EU3 and Iran scheduled for 18 January, and an early referral to the Security Council

At least, Mohamed ElBaradei, IAEA director-general, seems now to be aware of the gravity of the situation, cited by The Financial Times as telling the BBC: "We are at a stage where what is happening this week could turn into a major crisis."

Just how far this crisis develops is anyone's guess, but it certainly does underline Barroso's thesis that there are slightly more important things on the agenda than "institutional navel-gazing".


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