The European political arena is becoming increasingly opaque.
Not only because of the complicated institutional connections in the Lisbon Treaty but also because the main players give us the impression that they cannot see clearly either!
The barricade against the so-called "Franco-German" diktat ended in a unanimous decision by the European Council to enhance budgetary discipline and sanctions against countries in deficit or in debt. The severity of Heads of State and Government at the idea of a euro State going bankrupt causes havoc on the markets.
Germany and France suggest including the treaties in the financial mechanism that made it possible to save Greece but no one wants to modify them and yet they acknowledge that it is necessary - and this would be true for any step forwards towards integration. Everyone want to enhance the Defence of Europe; but it is France and the UK who have signed a bilateral military cooperation treaty. Ms Ashton continues unrelentingly her appointments within the European diplomatic service designed to implement a common foreign policy but she refuses to discuss security and defence without which there can be no European foreign policy.
How difficult it is for the European citizen to understand!
If the truth be known this confusion masks two major developments:
The Union is not in a phase of enthusiastic integration - that is the least we might say. Without a real budget it has to take on the heaviest of burdens.
The running of its institutions, which have now increased in number is also complicated. Vainly we look for the visionaries out there in the system who might plead at the top of their voice for common interest - and show us the way.
Exceptions to the treaties have increased and are undermining the political homogeneity of the whole - which is already threatened by its economic heterogeneity. Only the cleverest can say, apart from the specialists, who belongs to the Euro Area, to Schengen, to the European Economic Area and even to NATO ....
However circumstances make it more urgent than ever before to develop new common policies. But Europe dawdles along as the world gathers speed.
Economic budgetary policies, policies on security, defence, immigration, integration that were demanded during the crisis and the changes that are now occurring will only be effective once they are really European. Increasingly though there are more and more cooperation agreements between just a few - generally boiling down to Franco-German agreements. The Franco-German couple seems therefore to be one of the rare guardians of what remains of the European spirit. We should be happy at this although the situation might be more ambitious, but will this be enough to provide impetus to European integration when it is really being challenged by the new world? The modification of the treaties in view of creating a measure to help States in difficulty will in fact be a real hour of truth. Because this is no longer a diplomatic exercise, it is about the future of something which embodies strength, it is the engine - and from many points of view it represents the survival of the Union in the economy of the 21st century- it is about our currency - the Euro. If there is still more opting out, if some undertake a signature go-slow, or if others hesitate then it is time for a decision to be made over the "hard core" of Communitarian Europe - moving forwards in small groups, leaving others on the wayside. Everyone will have to take sides rapidly.