Leaders relax at end of year of living dangerously
The moodAs another year of dangerous living in the euro zone draws to a close, EU leaders cut relaxed figures as they gathered in Brussels for their final summit of 2012.
With a deal done on new European Central Bank powers to supervise banks and agreement reached to release crucial rescue aid to Greece, it was all smiles yesterday evening as Herman Van Rompuy shook hands with prime ministers, presidents and chancellors.
Enda Kenny, ever upbeat, spent a couple of moments with Van Rompuy on the threshold of the summit chamber.
Before the proceedings began inside, the Taoiseach spoke briefly with Angela Merkel and François Hollande and a clutch of other leaders including Valdis Dombrovskis of Latvia and Janez Jansa of Slovenia.
Kenny and Merkel had come from a European People’s Party meeting of centre-right leaders elsewhere in Brussels, a gathering at which the unlamented former Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi made his return to the international fray.
Berlusconi is said to have spoken for more than 30 minutes, slickly adopting a “pro-European” stance that was at odds with previous public remarks.
As an early Italian election looms, concern remains that the reform agenda of technocrat leader Mario Monti could skid off the rails.
Speculation intensified last night about the prospect of Monti running for office, with German support. Many knotty problems remain in Italy and far beyond.
But the breakthrough on new ECB powers early yesterday puts the first block of the “banking union” in place. There may well be divisions over what happens next and when, but there is a sense that this was something of a result.
“It’s a good day for Europe. Since the summit at the end of June we have made progress and solved these problems and the Greece problem, which has been discussed for so many months, and the question of a banking union,” Hollande said as he swept in from Paris.
“The crisis came from the banks, and mechanisms have been put in place that will mean nothing is as it was before.”
After months of German hard bargaining over the troubled Greek bailout, Merkel gave the all-important nod to the new deal. “I’m pleased that Greece is getting the aid tranche that it needed so urgently. Greece made big efforts to secure this aid.”
The leaders have reason to welcome a rare dose of positive news.