Who would want to be responsible for steering the course of that leaking tub Europe right now? No country in its right mind, some would say.
But that’s not the way it works. The presidency of the EU is a rotating responsibility and Ireland’s turn began this week. It will last for six months and no doubt throw up more than one challenging moment for both Enda Kenny, his government, and Ireland’s diplomatic corps.
One of the challenges concerns the Republic’s next door neighbor, Britain.
This, by way of illustration, from a recent report in The Guardian: “In a drab committee room at the offices of the European council last week, senior EU officials and Irish diplomats gathered to discuss tactics and strategy towards Britain. Specifically, the Irish, taking over the six-month EU presidency on 1 January, were keen to work out how to respond to a decision in London to absent Britain from scores of policies, laws and instruments governing EU police and judicial co-operation.”
Britain, as it does periodically, is going through one of its euro-skeptic spasms, a phenomenon with deep roots, but one nicely explained in a famous early twentieth century British newspaper headline: “Fog in the Channel, Continent Cut Off.”
Suffice it to say, many in Britain, and certainly quite a few in its governing elite, are not fans of Europe. British voters could well end up being asked in a referendum whether the UK should stay in the EU or get out, or at the least formulate a new and more detached relationship with the 27-member community.
This, of course, poses a problem for Ireland whether it’s in the EU presidential chair or not. Britain remains Ireland’s closest friend and neighbor, but Ireland is also tied to Europe at the hip.
So perhaps it’s fortuitous that Dublin has the helm for the first half of 2013. Who better to understand the ways of the skittish British in their island keep.
Europe is indeed fortunate to have the Enda and his team in charge at this critical hour.
Who knows, the cut-off continentals might even reward the Republic with a revised debt deal, one that looks a little less, even a little less, like an exercise in loan sharking.