A Nice Mess in Nice

LONDON: A hundred years ago, the humorous English magazine Punch carried a cartoon which depicted a young and nervous curate eating breakfast with his bishop. He was eating a boiled egg, and clearly not enjoying it. The bishop enquired: “I say - is your egg all right?” And the curate replies: “My Lord, it is excellent in parts.”

The cartoon caught the English fancy, and created a catch-phrase still in use today, although it is usually misunderstood and misused. Someone may say: “It’s a bit of a curate’s egg”, when he means that something is a mixture of good and bad. But of course the point of the original joke was that the curate was just being polite: an egg is either good or bad, and his was bad.

This week’s European Summit at Nice (December 7-9) looks like being a curate’s egg. The question is, will it be bad all through and a failure? Or will it be “excellent in parts”? The probable answer is: both. It will almost certainly fail to achieve its immediate objectives; but it may open the door to serious progress afterwards.

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