Soirée seems to be the hardest word

Series Title
Series Details Vol.7, No.41, 8.11.01, p15 (editorial)
Publication Date 08/11/2001
Content Type

Date: 08/11/01

Tony Blair's Downing Street mini-summit has triggered quite a furore.

Was he right to restrict his Sunday soirée to only eight guests, excluding most of the smaller EU countries? Was he right to extend his original invitation, to the leaders of France and Germany, to include those of Spain, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands, together with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana? Was he right to exclude Romano Prodi? Should we care?

The last question is the easiest to answer: we should because there is no greater priority at the moment than maintaining the EU's united stance in the fight against terrorism. Blair was almost certainly right to involve Italy, because Silvio Berlusconi has committed his country to providing military support for the war in Afghanistan. He was probably correct to invite Solana and Belgium's Guy Verhofstadt as representatives of the EU (there was therefore no need to call Prodi). Wim Kok and José María Aznar's presence was no doubt useful, but not crucial: the focus was on military, not EU, issues.

Quite why the dinner should have caused such a row is a mystery. As one Brussels diplomat pointed out this week, meetings outside the EU framework have been taking place for years. The Scandinavian and Benelux countries do it all the time. And what about all those Franco-German fireside chats?

Comment on Tony Blair's Downing Street mini-summit on the EU's role in the war against terrorism, 4 November 2001.

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