6 - 12 December 2000
Low hopes for Nice meeting
The Maltese bishops called on the faithful flock to pray for success at Nice and to not only look at Europe as an economic block. The bishops meeting is unprecedented and seems to be fuelled by the Vaticans interest in the future of Europe and more specifically the Charter of Human rights.
Nonetheless, prayers or no prayers the Nice meeting looks set to be a case study of crass diplomatic failure.
The Nice meeting that will bring the leaders of the European Union 15 will not have Malta on their minds, although Malta will be eyeing it for a clear indication on the enlargement date.
But this will be overshadowed by the far more crucial decision of the weighting of each country when it comes to voting.
Germany, the largest EU country when it comes to population and GDP, is reluctant to allow for enlargement before its number of votes grows proportionately.
Talking in this weeks Der Spiegel, German Chancellor, Gerhard Shroeder, said that it could not be that Germany has the same voting rights as some smaller EU countries.
Maltas position is favoured by one small political twist; the British and Italians want to bring in Malta and Cyprus to outweigh the inclusion of Eastern European member applicants which they see as falling under the German fold.
Writing in the Blairite journal The Guardian, Peter Preston, a former editor, described Europe as void of a strategy, but argued that it was in the best interest of everyone for the Nice meeting to bear some fruit.
But others, such as the Green MEP, Caroline Lucas, called for a plan to strengthen local economies and local communities in the new brave Europe.
One fact remains certain - if Nice decides to postpone certain decisions, the Europhobes, headed by Alfred Sant and Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici, will have a field day.
And perhaps yesterdays call for prayers by the Maltese bishops was more than warranted.