EU TALKS COLLAPSE
Tomorrow’s WaPo, tonight:
Negotiations on a new European constitution collapsed in acrimony Saturday, with the 25 current and future members of the European Union failing to find a formula to satisfy medium-size countries worried that their voices and votes would be swamped by larger countries in an expanded union.
The failure left the EU facing one of the most critical crises of its history and could formalize an already visible split in the organization. Diplomats said several of the founding EU members, including France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, could soon issue a statement saying they were prepared to proceed on their own fast track, with deeper integration and shared policies.
French President Jacques Chirac raised the idea of a two-speed Europe immediately after the talks failed. He said a smaller “pioneer group” could go forward on areas of common agreement. “It would be a motor that would set an example,” Chirac said. “It will allow Europe to go faster, better.” He did not specify policy areas where the core group might move forward.
EU leaders, normally given to diplomatic language and positive “spin,” did not try to mask their failure. “It has not been possible to reach agreement on all points,” said British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The meeting could have continued, Blair said, but “there’s no point in negotiations going on through the night. It’s better to wait and get the right agreement.”
Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister and summit chairman, was equally direct. “Right now, it’s just not possible to get an agreement,” he said. The meeting could have dragged on, he said, but “we all felt it wasn’t the right thing to do at this stage, given that the positions are so far apart.”
I’m sure this will be blamed on President Bush’s cowboy unilateralism.