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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 June, 2005, 12:21 GMT 13:21 UK
EU's 'Waterloo' summit angers press
EU Parliament Building

As one French paper invokes the Battle of Waterloo, Europe's press depict the summit as a battlefield for national interests - and many editorials condemn leaders for treating it as such.

French papers are infuriated at the summit haggling, but elsewhere Tony Blair wins approval for raising questions of where Europe is headed.

Europe has been left high and dry, with neither a plan nor a strategy. Blair is proposing to set a course for globalisation by speeding up the free-market process and the reform of its social model... reducing Brussels to the role of a bursar serving the states.

Neither the Plan B(lair), nor the C(hirac) has the support of a majority of Europeans today. A plan needs to be drawn up which combines economic flexibility and social protection, regulation and opening up to the world - and it must be one which can be approved democratically. But while awaiting this Plan D, it is Europe which has suffered a Waterloo this 18 June.

France's Liberation, editorial headlined "Waterloo"

Among the wealthy countries called upon to finance the enlargement, only two member states showed how European they were yesterday: Germany, which is prepared to increase its already large contribution, and little Belgium, which is very Community minded... Tony Blair sang the praises of his free-market, social, British-style Third Way - the best answer, he said, to Europe's problems. Jacques Chirac, for his part, threw himself into a solitary offensive against enlargement, rapidly countered by Germany, Sweden and Austria. The French president has been through one of the most painful European summits of his career.

France's Le Figaro, editorial headline: "The great haggling session"

Tony Blair is right to say that the budget talks should not just be about who puts how much money into the EU's coffers and who gets how much out of them... Do we want to continue spending a substantial section of the budget on structures of the past - in other words, subsidising the agricultural sector?... In light of their stagnating economies, it seems strange for Schroeder and Chirac to believe they know exactly what's best for Europe. Blair has at any rate proved in Britain that he knows more about economics than his opponents.

Germany's Der Tagesspiegel

The European Union's problem are not its citizens, but its leaders. The summit has missed an opportunity to send out a strong signal in the midst of this crisis. The current heads of state and government lack the necessary willpower and courage to throw off their habit of seeing Brussels as a battlefield for national interests...

In essence, there is no longer a shared idea of what the EU should be. Normally, this makes no difference, because everyone adheres to the agreed rules. However, it is no coincidence that in these times of crisis those forces, who - like most British - would like to reduce the EU to a free trade area have been strengthened.

Germany's Frankfurter Rundschau, commentary headlined "Clueless decisiveness"

The members of the European Council have demonstrated in Brussels that they have fallen into a period of stupor following the French and Dutch "No" votes to the Constitution - if stupor is what is understood by a decrease in the activity of higher intellectual functions... A "breathing space" of a year for reflection is all the leaders had to offer...

Chirac, who is one of the most enthusiastic champions of this breathing space, did not explain what France is going to do to save a constitution which is in a deep coma... Blair, on the other hand, with the approaching European presidency beginning on 1 July, could emerge victorious. In spite of his isolation, he has managed to resist the pressure on the British rebate.

Spain's El Pais

At the end of a two-day summit in Brussels, Silvio Berlusconi showed optimism in face of a double blow to Europe, first over the Constitution and now over the budget, and stressed that the European Council ended "with neither winners nor losers". He also explained that, regarding the EU budget talks, Italy was willing to do her share to make an agreement possible, "notwithstanding some sacrifices attached", and thus share the cost of the enlargement...

Italy's La Repubblica

The United Kingdom clung obstinately to the rebate secured in 1984, refusing to accept the principle of a freeze on it unless other European spending, such as on the Common Agricultural Policy, is discussed again - unthinkable for France... While each year the heads of state sing from the same hymn sheet in praise of scientific research as a vehicle to achieve the objectives of growth and full employment, the first cuts proposed to the future European budget under negotiation yesterday were in this field.

Belgium's La Libre Belgique

Those countries - led by Britain - who always wanted Europe to be little more than the market, have won - at least for now. The integrationist camp - especially the founding countries in the Benelux, Germany and France - has lost. The "phase of reflection" the Brussels summit has prescribed itself is a perfect symbol for this. It means: We don't know what to do next, we have to play for time, we have made huge mistakes.

Austria's Der Standard

The fact is that many EU citizens do not want closer co-operation than the 25 countries have today. This is where the EU's top politicians distance themselves from large parts of their populations, who feel they have had enough EU. They don't want to break 25 eggs to make the great European omelette. It would be sensible to use the pause for a fundamental debate about what economic and political fields the fantastic European project should actually cover. And what the EU should stay out of.

Denmark's Ekstra Bladet

The EU has run off the rails... The draft EU constitution now has more opponents than supporters in Finland, but then the wind of globalisation has swept over Finland with a harsh hand over the past year. One profitable factory after another has been shut down and moved to low-wage countries. Europe's problem is the weak economy and depressing prospects... People will obviously react when they are worse off... Many politicians have now seen which way the wind is blowing and quickly changed their EU euphoria to a strongly EU-critical line.

Finland's Vasabladet

Britain torpedoed a summit which would have brought in tens of billions of euros for eastern Europe... London does not want to pay for the expansion of the EU. An accord between the leaders of the 25 came apart over the opposition of Great Britain to bearing the costs of expansion falling upon that country. For Poland, the cost of the failure of the summit is exceptionally large.

Poland's Rzeczpospolita

Grandiose plans to boost EU spending by billions were shattered as triumphant Tony Blair led a seven-nation alliance of opposition. The PM beat off a bid by French President Jacques Chirac to isolate Britain and scrap its 3 billion rebate.... Mr Blair won the EU poker game without having to use Britain's veto.

Britain's The Sun - report "Blair holds out on rebate" By Trevor Kavanagh and Michael Lea

After Brussels, who expects this EU to come up any time soon with the economic recovery strategy that the eurozone so badly needs? Or to punch its weight in diplomacy, peacekeeping or in international trade talks? Or to achieve progress in the Middle East? Or to press ahead with enlargement in the Balkans, in the former Soviet lands or, above all, in Turkey? The EU has proved itself to be a weak organisation. It has rarely been in greater need of a clear sense of direction. It has rarely had less of one... In spite of isolation on the rebate, a real opportunity is emerging for consensus and progress on EU economic and social reform. Mr Blair is well placed to shape that debate...

Britain's The Guardian - editorial headlined "Opportunity knocks"

The EU's leaders are going to have to raise their game from this level to steer the union out of its current crisis. Lack of progress is not an option - least of all over the economy. This poses a special challenge for Mr Blair, who, in less than two weeks' time, will take over from Mr Juncker as EU president for six months... Mr Blair has a good story to tell - and to sell as a possible model for more struggling economies in the EU. But to do this, he must first find a new and more constructive tone when dealing with Britain's EU partners.

Britain's Financial Times - editorial "Pointing Europe in a new direction"

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See how Tony Blair reacted to the failed talks

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