Time was there were only two European Councils a year, one at the end of each six-monthly presidency. Then, in the late nineties, they started having the odd emergency Council half-way between the regular ones. It did not take a genius to work out that those emergency Councils would become regular ones and we shall end up with four jollies a year instead of two. It's not their money, after all.
According to Hugo Brady author of the paper that predicts what will happen in June, the biggest, most overwhelming problem will be immigration, with thousands, though not that many thousands apparently pouring into Italy from Tunisia and Libya (and who knows from where else by then.
This could easily become a bad tempered, inconclusive affair. First, the summit is supposed to take a broad strategic view of EU immigration and asylum policies. But instability in North Africa will inevitably skew discussion towards the present. Italy is adamant that it needs help to manage what it calls a "human tsunami" from Tunisia and Libya. Demands for greater "solidarity" from fellow EU countries essentially mean their agreement to take in some of the 20,000 or so migrants currently housed in tent camps on the islands of Lampedusa and Sicily and in the mainland region of Puglia. The EU has committed money, a humanitarian mission and border guards from Frontex, its border agency. Nonetheless, the Italians feel entitled to more. The EU-supported rebellion against Muammar Gaddafi's regime and the Tunisian uprising against President Ben Ali have left its realist immigration policy, heavily reliant on the two dictators, in tatters.More in tatters than Mr Brody appears to realize. In response to the crisis shaping up around refugees in Italy, France has abandoned Schengen and resurrected its border with that country.
The crackdown is sowing tensions between the two neighboring countries. "There's a hostile attitude coming from Paris," Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni told the Italian Senate on Thursday.Another day, another crisis and another crack in that famous European solidarity.
French Interior Minister Claude Guéant lashed back, saying France "is completely within its rights to send these people back to Italy."
The dispute ultimately stems from the European Union's failure to forge a common policy for dealing with migrants, ranging from political refugees to undocumented job seekers who enter the EU from countries along its periphery but are determined to settle in richer economies to the north.