Just a brief query: Can anyone think of the last time one of the big four countries in the EU — Germany, France, Britain, Italy — had a successful presidency of the Union?
It looks like the UK’s turn at the top will end without a budget agreement, which is fine for Blair’s domestic politics, but not so good for running the 25-country EU. Italy’s last run was marred by an initial spat between Berlusconi’s government and the European Parliament and never really got back into gear. Germany’s last presidency, back in ’99, featured the resignation of the Commission, the resignation of Germany’s finance minister and the war in Kosovo. The French presidency in 2000 ended with the summit in Nice, one of the least productive EU summits in memory. (EU mandarins from Central Europe still haven’t forgotten how Chirac gratuitously slighted them at Nice, setting the tone for his approach to enlargement.)
Breakthroughs seem to come during the presidencies of smaller countries. In recent years, think Ireland and Denmark. In the interests of better governance, maybe the Union should ban big countries from holding the presidency?