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Brussels blog by some wire service journalists

EU’s changing faces raise doubts for future

 

Merkel and Hollande

 

By DON MELVIN

BRUSSELS — Often these days, the first order of business at European Union summits isn’t the continent’s dreadful financial crisis.

It’s getting to know the people around the table.

The group of leaders that will meet this week in Brussels is a much different crew from the one that met in October 2009, when the crisis in Europe first erupted with the news that Greece was in deep trouble.

Gone is the colorful and sometimes embarrassing Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, replaced by the technocratic Mario Monti. Europe has said “au revoir” to hyperkinetic French President Nicolas Sarkozy and “bonjour” to the altogether more sedate Francois Hollande. The glower of Britain’s Gordon Brown has given way the youthful countenance of David Cameron.

At this summit, leaders had been preparing to shake hands with new Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras — until emergency eye surgery forced him to send regrets.

The revolving door of European leaders raises the question of how Europe can implement bold and swift decisions when it’s not even clear who’ll be in charge a few months from now.

Carefully cultivated alliances can get swept away in the swirl of parliamentary politics. How, the pundits ask, can Europe come together on a united vision for the future when instability lies at the very heart of the continent’s democratic system?

Of the 27 countries in the EU, 14 have switched leaders since the crisis began a little over two and a half years ago. Only one major national leader has remained a constant throughout the crisis: German Chancellor Angela Merkel. And her staying power, at the top of Europe’s biggest economy, has bolstered Germany’s dominant role in European decision-making.

After all, it’s safe to say that few people are waiting for Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov to lead the way.

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Don Melvin

Slobodan Lekic

Raf Casert

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