Rhein on Energy and Climate

European Vanity Fair

In 10 days, President Bush will host a crucial conference on the reform of the international financial system. He does so at the initiative of the EU. Nicolas Sarkozy, in his quality as President of the European Council, and Manual Barroso, President of the European Commission, have managed to persuade him of the necessity of bringing the world’s major financial players together to draw some lessons from the ongoing financial crisis.
Bush has rightly extended the circle of invitees beyond the G8 countries to include China, India, Brazil and other emerging countries, a total of 20 heads of government, of which five from the EU (Presidency, Commission, Germany, Italy and UK).

You would assume that five representatives from the European Union who are supposed to deliver identical messages, thanks to the special preparatory European Council meeting to be convened November 7th , are more than plenty at an international conference that will not be able take any substantive decisions, if only because of a “lame duck” US president.

That assumption ignores the vanity of European heads of government.
M. Zapatero, the Spanish prime minister, believes his presence in Washington is indispensable. Instead of focusing on the substantive issues to be addressed, the EU is focused on protocol affairs. Diplomats with their proverbial capacity to make the impossible happen, have suggested that M. Zapatero occupy the “French seat” at the conference table; M. Sarkozy taking that of the EU.

What a disgraceful European Union! Go on like this, Mesdames et Messieurs les Présidents. European citizens will be grateful to you for being numerous at international meetings. Never mind the effectiveness and the extra cost to tax payers The White House Protocol will be happy because it can prove its flexibility in extending tables and conference space. China and India will rejoice at the prospect of meeting so many European prime ministers and wonder how they manage all to say the same things, though in different languages.

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