My assumption yesterday evening that this would be seen as a Merkel summit – with new German Chancellor Angela Merkel playing a key role – has turned out to be correct. It’s not only in the German media that she is portrayed as having played a key role in actually getting the agreement.
After an interlude of some years we are thus returning to a situation in which Germany is a major player in its own right in Europe. Not simply an annex to Paris, but a player able to play a somewhat broader play.
In the first half of 2007 Germany will have the EU presidency, and the summit in June of that year, presided over by Angela Merkel, will be the one where the newly elected new President of France makes his or her first European appearance.
This is where we should expect the critical decision on how to move forward on the important constitutional/treaty issues. We might well see some discussions on the procedure taken during the upcoming Austrian presidency, but in all probability it will the German one that will be the truly important.
The year thereafter it will be time to do the review of the budget – the financial framework – that now has been agreed to.
By that time we might very well have a new Prime Minister in the United Kingdom, we will certainly have a new President of France and it’s far from unlikely that we will have a new Prime Minister of Italy.
In many ways it will be a new ballgame – but Angela Merkel will be there.
So it is probably right to see the meeting of the European Council in Brussels during the last few days as the first in a series of Merkel summits in the European Union.
It’s Berlin that will count in Brussels.