One of the less-discussed advantages of the Lisbon Treaty is that it would put an end to the ‘rotating’ Presidency under which the EU is currently run. This is the Buggins Turn system in which the Prime Ministers of even piddling little states get to strut it on the world stage for six months, miming an importance and power that they do not possess. Each one embarks on his or her moment in the sun with a grandiose ‘agenda’ which, given the glacial pace of inter-governmental processes, is unachievable within the allotted term. (Nicolas Sarcozy is the current incumbent and he is determined to ‘sort out’ the Irish Referendum result.) And then the baton is passed to another, equally deluded, premier whose fantasies and pretensions have likewise to be taken seriously by EU officials.
I remember being in Ireland when we first held the Presidency. Sue and I stayed in the Westbury in Dublin, which was the official hotel for the EU Summit. We seemed to be the only non-EU residents in the entire hotel. Outside was permanent gridlock of black limousines and motorcycle outriders. I fell into conversation with a bored driver who was waiting for his assigned clutch of VIPs. “This is not a good weekend to die in Ireland”, said he. I inquired why. “Because”, he said, “the government has hired cars from every funeral director in the country. There’s nothing left out there except bloody hearses.”