An EU challenge for Ireland

It appears that the Irish media missed this editorial in the Herald Tribune. They might catch up later in the week, or else I missed it being reported.

The editorial is fairly positive, it indicates the challenges facing Ahern and Ireland during our EU presidency.

That’s because the Irish and their prime minister, Bertie Ahern, will preside over quite a bit more activity than most EU presidents have had. The most dramatic will be in May, when the EU is scheduled to welcome 10 new members, eight of them former Soviet satellites. Besides that, Ahern has to pick up the pieces from the failed effort in December to agree on a new EU constitution; he has to start preparing a new six-year EU budget and the selection of a new European Commission president, and he has to try to restore equilibrium in trans-Atlantic relations.

The Editorial then goes on to praise Ahern himself :

For all this, Ahern is the right man – Ireland is a rich training ground for the skill of negotiating, its relations with the United States are good and the country’s economic transformation is a shining model of what wise EU spending can achieve.

Interesting words to hear coming from the International Herald Tribune! They then go on to agree with him on not going for a two-tier Europe:

Ahern declared last week, and we agree, that if the European Union is to live up to its name, it can only move forward together. That is especially true now, when the 15 EU veterans prepare to embrace countries whose democratic and economic institutions are still wobbly. Relegating them publicly to second-class status would contradict the whole purpose of bringing them into the European mainstream.

But hark! A warning:

Ahern’s task will not be made easier by the fact that European Parliament elections will be held in June, and that his own center-right coalition faces trouble at home.

What is imperative is that none of these challenges and problems be allowed to mar what should be the high moment of Ireland’s watch, the great party scheduled for May 1 in Dublin when the leaders of Europe will induct the new members and thus erase yet another fault line from the European continent.