ME and Ophelia

Friday, June 18, 2004

A success for Britain and a success for Europe

Prime Minister Tony Blair has proclaimed the deal - announced a few hours ago - on the first ever EU constitution as "a success for Britain and a success for Europe".

Mr Blair said the treaty kept the UK veto on "essential" issues such as economic policy, defence and foreign affairs.

The talks showed that in the "new Europe" there were allies ready to back Britain's vision for the EU.

Now every country has to ratify the treaty. In some cases that will be done by a national parliament but Britain is among those countries to have already promised a public referendum.

The next crucial step is election of a President of the European Union. Hopefully, Belgian Prime Minister Verhofstadt aka "Baby Thatcher" (the one France and Germany are pushing for - and who is a friend of Tony Blair) will not get the job.

According to the EU website: Diplomats say that France and Germany, the twin cylinders of the European engine, want Verhofstadt, a likeminded figure, to ensure their interests are not drowned out in a Union of 25 member states. Britain, which still hasn't forgiven Verhofstadt for launching an outspoken campaign against the war in Iraq, says the Flemish liberal is a dangerous federalist bent on creating a European superstate.

Good that one of those nominated for the Presidency is EU External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten, a former British cabinet minister and the last governor of Hong Kong. He won last minute backing from the centre-right European People's Party, the biggest group in the European Parliament. Here's hoping he gets the job as President of the newly expanded European Union. He has a great intellect, is a monster diplomat with great people skills, and a decent chap too. He did a great job on the hand over of Hong Kong. It would be a feather in our cap to have him presiding over the EU and, now that we are operating in a Europe of 25, would give this country a brilliant opportunity to get some great things done.

Note that British officials said they were unhappy that German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder had tried to link the EU presidency with any trade-offs over changes to the constitution. Also, French President Jacques Chirac criticised the UK's position before the talks even began. Yesterday he accused Mr Blair of trying to water down the constitution and during today's talks indicated he was not happy with the direction of the summit.

Last night I watched televsion news and noticed Tony Blair walking up to greet Chirac with a friendly smile and outstretched arm, ready to shake hands. Chirac reacted stupidly and stuck his hands in his pocket. Blair handled it decently, and politely launched into what he wanted to say. It made Chirac look unintelligent and childish. The French ought to get rid of him. He is giving France and its people a reputation for being rude, arrogant and obnoxious. Recently, I'd read somewhere that it's well known fact that the French have a reputation for caring only about themselves. What a shame for all the nice French people.

# posted by Ingrid J. Jones @ 6/18/2004
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