Cardiff’s Mixed Messages

LONDON: The recent European Summit in Cardiff has been widely written off as a non-event, or even, in some quarters, as the beginning of a slow-down in the process of European integration. In fact, it now seems clear that it marks the moment when the British government seriously wished to be in the single currency.

It is true that at Cardiff the European heads of government reached no major new decisions of substance, even on those many difficult reforms which will be absolutely required for EU enlargement to the East.

It is also true that the summit was short of human drama, since it did not even produce a good row. Chancellor Helmut Kohl had been widely expected to make noisy demands for a cut-back in Germany’s disproportionate role as the paymaster of the Union. In the event, however, he remained disappointingly quiet.

In the absence of drama at Cardiff, the most politically-significant event took place immediately before the summit. For Chancellor Kohl and President Chirac had released a joint letter to their colleagues in which they denounced the idea of a "centrally structured Europe", and called for more "subsidiarity", so as to decentralise decision-making, and take it closer to the citizens of Europe.