"The European Council recalls the importance of the common European values of solidarity, social justice and sustainability as the basis for the development of the Union's policies." That is how the draft conclusions of the December 15-16 summit opened.

A noble aspiration.

And it added: "This constitutes the framework in which the guidelines set out in these conclusions should be taken forward."

But as time passed and the summit remained paralysed by the disagreement over the EU's medium-term funding plans, the nobility of the aspirations appeared increasingly tarnished.

As Europe Information went to press, late on Friday afternoon, there was only the glimmer of a compromise between the opposing factions on the EU's finances. And each successive Presidency bid to broker a deal seemed to focus more and more on what each member state could get out of the EU, and less and less on what they might be prepared to put into it.

The hints of offers being made and accepted in the endless rounds of bilateral meetings suggested little solidarity. Social justice seemed to be relegated to a secondary position in each member state's bid to squeeze a few more euros here and there out of the increasingly complex calculations. And the squalid atmosphere hardly offered a glimpse of a sustainable way of conducting international affairs.

There was no...

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