Potatoes are Root Vegetables

Though not a square-root vegetable, at least not a square-root or death vegetable when you get down to it at the Brussels bargaining table.

The Kaczynski twins are providing some sparks in the run-up to this summit, and they are every bit as ham-handed as noted below and by Henry over here. One level of the game is to try to get Poland permanently into the EU big leagues with a prominent display of obstreporousness. This has a long, if not entirely honorable, history within the European institutions. See chair, empty and handbag, Thatcher’s. But what these episodes cost France and the UK in long-term ill will may well have been greater than the headline gains they resulted in. At any rate, the current potato casserole shows that Polish politicians have mastered the EU skills of brinksmanship, populist posturing and feather ruffling. Whether they have mastered the more productive arts is yet to be seen.

On the other hand, there really isn’t much time left to get an unconstitution (my word for the next EU treaty) rolling. Elections to Parliament are in 2009. Almost all of 2008 will be required for ratification. That leaves the second half of 2007 to fix the details. The Portuguese presidency, as worthy as it assuredly will be, won’t have the resources to put behind a treaty push that the German one has. And Merkel’s background has made her an honest broker on Central European issues in a way no other current leader I can think of could match. She’s been good enough at cajoling that Germany’s role as largest contributor has almost never been mentioned. But there’s that, too.

Anyway, as almost always in things EU, compromise at the last possible moment remains the way to bet.