You can just picture the smug grin on his face first thing this morning as Cherie rolls over in bed with a sultry “Good morning, Mr President”, can’t you? (Excuse me a moment while I go and scrum myself down – that made me feel somewhat unclean…)
Well, as of this morning Blair is the nominal boss of the EU – a position which means basically sod all other than that any pronouncements he makes on the thing are likely to get a little more press overseas, and that the British media is going to find it rather harder to ignore the complexities of the various EU institutions and methods of working, as they normally tend.
Other than Blair, who genuinely seems to have deluded himself that he can achieve a breakthrough over the next few months, no one seems overly convinced that anything will actually get done. EUpolitix has reactions from 36 MEPs to Blair’s agenda – few seem overly enthusiastic. A British presidency is simply too contentious.
Despite EU Commission president Barroso calling for calm and good sense to prevail and for Blair and Chirac to kiss and make up lest they “destroy the very idea of Europe”, it doesn’t look likely.
Instead, thanks to the almost certainly upcoming German elections, Britain’s concurrent G8 obligations, and the fact that France is not going to back down while it could look like Britain has won, the EU is more likely to stagnate for another six months or so, with the occasional plea for reform, the odd invective-laden pronouncement from either side of the channel, and an excuse for columnists and commentators continent-wide to regurgitate the same old speculative nonsense again and again and again.
If any advances are made over the next six months of British EU Presidency, it will not be thanks to Blair – the only way forward is for Chirac to start making concessions. And that is something that neither his pride nor his political position will allow him to do.