The drubbing that many governments suffered in the recent elections to the European Union Parliament places them in a difficult position as they maneuver ahead of this week's EU Summit. Only an incurable optimist can hope that the summit will bring glory to any of them.
The summit has two purposes: to finalize the text of a new EU Constitution, and to appoint the next President of the Commission. These negotiations will be much harder in view of the spectacular repudiation of a number of key governments at the ballot box, together with the potent rise of protest and Euroskeptic parties in several member states.
The problem for Europe's leaders is that their own repudiation by voters does not necessarily carry the same message as the rise of the Euroskeptic parties. The record slump in the vote for Gerhard Schröder's governing Social Democrats in Germany has little to do with his policy towards Europe, but a great deal to do with the perceived failure of his economic policies - and the persistence of low growth and high unemployment - at home. Despite nationalist parties' success in France, the same is true of the setback for President Jacques Chirac's centre-right party.
In Britain, by contrast, where the economy is strong and unemployment low, the main factor behind the collapse in the vote for the governing Labor Party has been anger with Tony Blair's determination to go to war in Iraq beside George Bush.