François Heisbourg, director of the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research, said the row about the budget was “the wrong debate at the wrong time”.
But he said that the French political class was never going to warm to lectures from Mr Blair. “The French left is very good at picking apart everything that is wrong with what Blair has been doing but is apparently unable to come up with anything that produces the same performance.”as well as suggesting that Blair may be receiving support from Germany (at the least from the CDU). A Reuters/Yahoo article seems to indicate that the other net contributor nations are causing trouble. I just loved this bit:
[Juncker] said the 25 member states were close to agreement on the spending side of the budget but wide differences over Britain's annual budget rebate and how much other major net contributors should pay into EU coffers made an agreement improbable.
... He said there were still "pockets of resistance" but he would propose further spending cuts in an updated package later on Wednesday to try to clinch a compromise. EU leaders meet on Thursday and Friday.
Failure to reach agreement this week would add a financial crisis to political uncertainty after French and Dutch voters rejected the EU constitution, jeopardising billions of euros in public investment in 2007 in the new east European member sates.
The Luxembourg leader, a wily veteran of EU negotiations, said Britain was not the only country in a special situation and he would not be able to satisfy Dutch expectations of no longer being the biggest net per capita contributor either.Or to put it another way the EU demonstrates yet another foible in the way that it handles its budget. Rather than the obvious process of agreeing what money you (expect to) have and then dividing that up amongst the various causes you want to spend it on, the EU works backwards deciding firstly how much it wants to spend and then deciding how it is to be paid for and who will pay for it.
"This was not a vote on the constitution," Giscard said in his first interview since the French said no in a referendum last month. "That is the key point that has been missed by the political leaders, because political leaders don't normally like to say that the vote could have been against them."
Speaking in English in the library of his Paris home, he added, "The French message was, 'We want change in our political leadership."'Another good bit:
When asked whether Chirac should have resigned following the outcome of the vote, he did not say no. "I will not comment on that," he said. "I want to keep my distance from the leader of the French political scene."
He noted, however, the decision of President Charles de Gaulle to resign in 1969 the day after the French people, in a referendum, rejected a measure to revise the Senate, create regions and seek support after the student uprisings of May 1968.
"De Gaulle did, De Gaulle did," Giscard said. "The vote was on Sunday and on Monday all the packing was done and he went to Colombey," his longtime residence.
A turning point for the fate of the constitution in France came last March, Giscard said, when he phoned Chirac to warn him not to send the entire three-part, 448-article document to every French voter. The third and longest part consisted only of complicated treaties that already have been in force for years.
He said that Chirac refused, citing legal reasons.
"I said, 'Don't do it, don't do it,"' Giscard said. "It is not possible for anyone to understand the full text."And then he blames the voters and thinks that if a few additions can be made then people will pass what he calls "my document". It looks like Giscard d'Estaing is keeping Juncker company on their voyage up denial on the ship EU Constitution.