Forget Nobel Peace Prize, EU launches summit warfare

Thu Nov 22, 2012 5:17am EST
 
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By Luke Baker

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union may have won the Nobel Peace Prize this year, but to many EU leaders, officials, diplomats and even journalists, it can feel more like a torture chamber.

Increasingly, Europe is governed at night by leaders in an advanced state of exhaustion, disregarding scientific evidence that this can lead to bad decisions, or non-decisions.

Over the past three years, the EU has held 25 summits to try to tackle its debt crisis and related economic turmoil, with few of those meetings ending before 3 or 4 a.m. -- usually after 12 hours or more of near-fruitless negotiation.

Add to that more than 40 finance ministers' meetings -- the most recent of which ended at 5 a.m. on Wednesday, again without agreement -- and it is easy to see how a set of institutions designed to foster peace and stability in Europe can end up delivering frustration, angst and head-numbing pain.

"I'll put it this way: I woke up at 5 a.m. or 5.30 a.m. yesterday and we ended in the morning around 4 a.m.," Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico complained after the last, largely unsuccessful summit in October.

"This is how all of us operate, we adopt very serious decisions under pressure," he said, referring to the EU's increasingly weary heads of state and government.

The EU's 27 leaders gathered for another summit on Thursday and Friday, this time to try to hammer out an agreement on around 1 trillion euros ($1.3 trillion) of spending over the next seven years.

It promises to be a bruising clash of national interests rather than the model of reconciliation and harmony commended by the Nobel committee, although it will still be "jaw, jaw" rather than "war, war".   Continued...

 
An European Union flag flutters outside of the European Parliament in Brussels October 12, 2012. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir