Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A gigantic, ocean-going con

If you really want to learn what is about to happen in Brussels, over the vexed question of the EU treaty, you could do no better than turn to the People's Daily Online, for an article headed: "Will 'roadmap' for EU treaty get passed in Brussels?"

One loves the terminology, Germany being described as the "EU rotary chairman country", which makes chancellor Angela Merkel a "rotary chairman". We never knew she was that interested in helicopters.

However, says PDO, Merkel has appealed to EU nations to support "a roadmap" she has proposed after her active consultations with them for the revival of the "EU charter treaty" that had been "agrounded" in 2005. She will, we are told, present the roadmap on Thursday, or June 21 to the EU summit for discussion in a hope of having it passed by the EU member nations before the election of the European Parliament in 2009.

For more detail, the journal goes to Li Jingwei, a People's Daily desk editor, who conducts "a dialogue" with its overseas reporters Lu Hong, Jin Zhao and Li Yongqun.

Lu Hong (PD resident reporter in Germany) tells us that, on the eve of the EU-Summit on June 21/22, Chancellor Angela Merkel read out a statement in the Lower House of Parliament (that was last Thursday, 14 June), appealing for her "roadmap" to be passed at the EU Summit, "which is designed to restart the EU charter (or constitution) treaty."

Lu Hong continues:

Main contents of the roadmap are to substitute a new, revised treaty for the original version of the EU charter treaty. The new EU treaty contains the core contents of the original copy, but deletes some wording or statements that are similar to those characteristic of the state, so as to dispel worries of some EU countries about the EU being turned into a superpower.

Chancellor Merkel has conducted "intense consultations" with EU member nations before the EU Summit that is due to open on 21 June. Germany especially invited Polish President Lech Kaczynsk to visit Berlin and held talks with him mainly on the issue of the "EU charter treaty" last Saturday, or on 16 June, but so far no breakthrough was scored. And only a day later, on Sunday, or 1 June, Mrs. Merkel visited Luxemburg and held talks with Prime Minister Jean Claude Junckev (L). Merkel stressed during the talks that EU member nations need to display the spirit of "comprise" so as to cope with the crisis of the EU constitution, whereas Prime Minister Junckev expressed optimism toward the summit as well as his readiness to do some "persuasion" along with Merkel.
There is more, but what we read affirms, without the histrionics of the British (and European) media, exactly what Merkel is up to. For "roadmap", read mandate and it becomes clear. She is indeed trying to get as close to a finished treaty draft as possible and is attempting also to lock it in, presenting it as a fait accomplis in a bid to dissuade errant member states, such as Poland and the UK, from attempting to change it during the subsequent IGC.

Clearly, if her "mandate" - which she desperately hopes will be approved at the European Council, with amendments which are currently being negotiated – is seen merely as a "starter for ten", it will almost certainly unravel during the first stages of the IGC. The chances then of Portugal pulling it together to present a finished treaty draft by the end of the year are slight.

Next in line for the presidency is little Slovenia and, if a new treaty has not been agreed under the Portuguese presidency, there is absolutely no prospect whatsoever of it being concluded during the six months that Slovenia holds the chair – which means the buck passes to France.

By then, the timetable will have slipped to the point where it will be impossible to achieve ratification of any treaty that might then be agreed under the French Presidency before the EU parliament elections in 2009 – the timetable the "colleagues" have set their heart on.

This explains the frenetic activity on the part of Merkel. Her own personal reputation is at stake so for her - as well as the "colleagues" - this coming European Council really is "do or die". But not for the reasons we are being told about. If the German chancellor cannot stitch together an agreement, on Thursday or Friday (possibly running into Saturday), which looks like holding through the turmoil of the IGC, then the idea of a treaty ratified by 2009 is dead in the water.

What is being perpetrated at the moment, therefore, is a gigantic, ocean-going con. The European Council is being presented as the conclusion of a treaty negotiation process, in the hope that it will accepted as one, with the "mandate" or "roadmap" given the status of a draft treaty that no one dares to change (in substance). The wish, they hope, will become the reality.

And, in their ignorance – but more because they are obsessed with the theatre and look no further - the media goes along with it.


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