…and things are turning nasty, according to the Economist’s Charlemagne:
To my surprise, a dominant mood in this final stretch is one of hostility towards the Swedish presidency and specifically, the Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.
If the briefing, which comes from several EU governments, were just sniping about incompetence, I would not be so surprised: every rotating presidency is criticised before every big summit, because everything always looks like a mess before every crunch meeting of the EU. It is only when summits are over and the results are known, that you can really judge the role played by its hosts.
No, what takes me aback is the level of “distrust” out there about Mr Reinfeldt, to use the word chosen by a senior figure from one EU country. There are veiled hints that he is using his role as chairman of the selection process in a way that is not wholly straightforward.
Specifically, there is grumbling about Mr Reinfeldt’s decision to seek a very short list of candidates to put to EU leaders at their emergency summit, consisting of one or two names who enjoy near consensus before discussions even start. The thing about this system, it is alleged, is that it gives Mr Reinfeldt extraordinary power over the process, because once a candidate attracts any opposition, that candidate can be chucked off the shortlist as “failing to create consensus”. The accusation from some camps is that candidates are being chucked off too quickly, when the opposition to them might not be as hard and fast as all that. Nobody is quite accusing Mr Reinfeldt of using this system to kick people off the shortlist who he himself does not favour, but they are coming pretty close.