Most people would rather forget why European leaders agreed to hold an extraordinary summit in Dublin this October. Ask the Irish hosts and they offer knowing smiles. At the European commission, fonctionnaires seek refuge behind the old clich? about “relaunching” Europe, as if the EU had spent the last six months in dry dock.
Overriding objections from the Irish presidency, Captain Jacques Chirac is the man steering a course for a mid-autumn meeting. Like Fran?ois Mitterrand and General de Gaulle, Chirac likes nothing better than to sit down informally with fellow leaders and swap stories, although the word is that the Frenchman likes to class people as officers and crew.
Remember his inaugural EU summit in Cannes last year. Chirac castigated the Italians for manipulating the lira, slapped down the Dutch for tolerating cannabis caf?s in Amsterdam, and scolded anyone who dared to speak out against French nuclear testing in the South Pacific. As one veteran French journalist remarked at the time, the French president’s performance was half Boris Yeltsin, half Louis XIV.
Chirac has since calmed down a bit; but he has a pressing reason for calling for a summit midway through the Irish presidency. His private nightmare is a revolt in France caused by stubbornly high unemployment. His plan to head off trouble is to stage a summit in Dublin devoted to the theme of “social Europe.” This is the lofty term which EU leaders trot out when seeking to demonstrate that they are still in touch with ordinary working men and women. Who are they trying to kid?
With more than 20m people out of a job in Europe, no sane politician would be pursuing Maastricht-led deflation. Captain Chirac insists this is the price to be paid for economic and monetary union. The truth is that the Dublin summit is a cynical attempt to shore up popular support for the faltering project to create a single currency in Europe.
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the good news is that Dublin castle-which hosts the meeting as well as a second Euro-summit in mid-December-is a cut above recent summit locations which include a refurbished Fiat car factory (Turin), a post-modern exhibition centre (Madrid), and a steel trade fair monstrosity (Essen).
Once the seat of British government in pre-independence Ireland, Dublin castle also witnessed the opening of Margaret Thatcher’s campaign in 1981 for a lower British contribution to the Brussels budget.…