I have just returned from a few weeks in Europe.
My impression is that the mood there is far better than it was a few months ago. The EU Presidency, Portugal, is working hard to obtain an agreement on the new treaty that will replace the aborted constitution following the Dutch and French no vote. The feeling is that a positive decision will be reached in October and, after a rather speedy ratification procedure, the new provisions will apply in 2009.
There is a breath of fresh air with new heads of states in three of the larger Member States namely, Germany, the UK and France. The European economy has improved but there are still a number of reforms which have been identified and now need to be put in place. This will be a challenge but I am optimistic. The EU is a tremendous work-in-progress that is far from being complete but my feeling is that we are steadily progressing from the economic field to the political arena.
I am asking myself whether these evolutions, that are sometimes tiny but always progressive and irreversible, can be perceived let alone understood in distant countries like Australia and New Zealand.
A good sign is that last week we adopted a new joint declaration with New Zealand, and we are currently working on a new joint declaration with Australia which will be adopted in 2008. Both these declarations lay down the foundations of a closer, deeper and larger relationship with the respective countries that will certainly be enhanced by the growing political maturity of the European Union.
Thursday, 4 October 2007