All eyes on Merkel and her new French frenemy

Thu, May 24, 2012, 01:00

BEHIND THE SCENES:Meeting says bonjour to the new EU order and au revoir to its Brangelina equivalent – Merkozy, writes DEREK SCALLY

BAKU OR Brussels? Given the thin news gruel on offer at yesterday’s informal summit, the distant Eurovision host made for probably a more riveting capital of Europe yesterday.

Journalists slurped ice cream in the sun, killing time ahead of a meet-and-greet-Hollande dinner that many secretly hoped would descend into a bun fight with Berlin.

The meal was not to everyone’s liking, with Germany’s Bild tabloid declaiming the dinner to readers as a saucy Holland(e)aise stitch-up: “And, once again, Germans have to ladle out the debt soup!”

The man of the moment skidded into the Justus Lipsius building and stepped out on to the red carpet looking dazed but by no means confused by the media attention.

Greek caretaker prime minister Panagiotis Pikrammenos, whose surname in Greek means “embittered”, didn’t linger on the Brussels red carpet. With next month’s second election looming, he was not relishing his first and last Brussels summit.

It may have been an informal meeting but most summit-savvy leaders were clearly in work mode. An unusually brusque Donald Tusk of Poland took no questions as he strode in.

Channelling Darby O’Gill, in a green tie and even greener handkerchief, was the boyish Finnish leader Jyrki Katainen.

Enda Kenny landed late in Brussels on the Government jet, after tearing himself away from a lunch date with the Leinster Society of Chartered Accountants.

Just as well that Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, wearing his Labour leader hat, had flown earlier on an Aer Lingus flight. He attended a packed meeting of the Party of Jubilant European Socialists, gathered to welcome the first French socialist leader since François Mitterrand.

By comparison the competing European People’s Party event of centre-right leaders was a low-rent affair. The EU’s Brangelina equivalent – Merkozy – was no more: Angela was absent, Sarko was off the list. Instead all eyes were drawn to the hypnotic, coppery glow of Silvio Berlusconi.

At 7pm, back at the EU bunker, Angela Merkel strode into the meeting room of leaders, looking determined but tired.

As cameras circled, was her gaze a little more anxious than usual? European Commission leader José Manuel Barroso monopolised her for a chat, but Merkel’s eyes were on the open door.

Just after 7pm he appeared: Francois Hollande, her new French frenemy.