Countdown to the Brussels Summit IV: Fear and Trepidation

Going into the first day of the EU’s Brussels summit on Friday, the one that is supposed to result in an agreed-upon text for a new Constitutional Treaty, most of the European press is not in an optimistic mood that such an agreement can be reached. The word “miracle” (in whichever local language variant) – as in, what that will likely require – figures prominently in many headlines.

For a review of that European press coverage, I think I’ll just refer you to Deutsche Welle’s English-language “European Press Review” (a link that I myself found out about from the scottymac blog). At least they also cover Austria and Italy, which I don’t, but do allow me to mention the essential superficiality of that press review, in light of the comprehensive reading that I’ve already done of the treatment in today’s European press of the run-up to the summit.


For example, they cite De Volkskrant, but that Dutch newspaper has broad, multi-article coverage that is probably impossible to summarize adequately in such a pat manner. As just one example, check out (if you read Dutch) The Netherlands Doesn’t Like to Make Threats, But Now . . .”, for a great treatment of what the Dutch position is, why Dutch ministers are determined to “play hardball” (keihard spelen – ooooooooh! We bad!) – and how, nonetheless, it’s doubtful that anyone will bother to listen to them, or that a couple of their main objectives will be attained. (Want to know what those objectives are? The right to veto EU multi-year budgets – the Netherlands is one of the main states that contributes more money to those budgets than it gets back from them, you see – and, of course, putting some needed teeth into the euro’s Growth and Stability Pact.)

Or there’s the FT Deutschland’s excellent treatment (but only one out of three articles on the subject in its on-line edition) EU Constitution: Scenarios for the Outcome of the Negotiation-Poker which, as the title implies, presents four scenarios for the way the summit could end up: Failure (self-explanatory, no?), Continuing to Negotiate Later (namely starting in January, under the new Irish presidency), Continuing to Negotiate Much Later (in this scenario, the Council voting-rights question is the one remaining thing left standing in the way – so that issue is put off for renegotiation at a point closer to 2009, when the current Nice Treaty system can actually be replaced; we’ve discussed this before), and Conclusion, i.e. success: everything is taken care of this weekend at Brussels. And what about the French press? Presumably Deutsche Welle feels that, being German, it can’t review the German press, but believe me, there was plenty of interesting stuff in the French press – quite beyond the viewpoint from our far-left friends at the Communist Party newspaper L’Humanité that is always fun to consult. The point is that the Deutsche Welle coverage could be much better, much more complete, and I could provide that – despite the small fact that I generally prefer to cover one nation’s press at a time, so that I can put each weblog entry into a unique national “category” for sorting purposes. (For example, this entry must needs remain uncategorized.) I just don’t have the time now, mainly because I want to supplement my coverage of the French response to the Pentagon’s contract-exclusion order with that of the German. In-depth EuroSavant treatment of the European press’ coverage of what this weekend’s summit actually accomplished will surely follow shortly, once the smoke clears and it becomes apparent what they did actually accomplish.


So let me just take the opportunity to note for you a few more interesting elements out of that European coverage. Yegads, the German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Süddeutsche Zeitung each have multi-article special sections on the topic. What’s more, the Dutch NRC Handelsblad offers an opinion-piece, entitled Better a Delay than a Bad-Compromise EU, co-written by Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, Giuliano Amato, and Jean-Luc Deheane, who just happen to be the Chairman of the EU’s Constitutional Convention and his two deputy-chairman. That is actually the third installment in a series of opinion articles these august gentlemen have written about their view of the future form of the EU, published earlier in the NRC (and who knows where else; surely somewhere else, and surely somewhere else in English). If you’re interested, and can read Dutch, you certainly can access the other two, provided you’re willing to register with the NRC’s website for free; they are (in chronological order) Europe Is and Remains A Creation of its Citizens and The European Commission Must Remain the EU’s Axis. (Don’t even think that that last has anything to do with World War II. Please review the various other definitions of axis.)

By the way, it’s also interesting which papers had no coverage of the upcoming Brussels summit. In the Dutch press: De Telegraaf (but that one you could have expected – little Princess Amalia is still but barely a week old), Algemeen Dagblad, Het Parool, and (this one really hurts) Trouw. It’s very disillusioning. Maybe (or “of course!”) they had some sort of brief coverage in their paper editions, but there was nothing on their on-line sites. Just how important is the EU’s prospective Constitution, people? I may be a EuroNerd (Chorus: “No, MAO, you’re a EuroSavant, or at least you were quick enough to be the first to snatch up that ‘.com’ domain!”), but I think it’s all rather important, as well as (usually) pretty interesting. So perhaps writing later about those three pieces by the EU Constitutional Convention chairmen, after the summit, to contrast those gentlemen’s advocacy of what should happen with what actually did, might be an interesting idea for a weblog entry in the near future.

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