The European Union finds itself yet again poised between two conflicting trends in its evolution represented by last Tuesday's conflictive Foreign Affairs Ministers' meeting in Luxembourg, and next Thursday's summit of EU leaders at Hampton Court.

The bitter exchanges on world trade that have persisted since the Luxembourg meeting are poisoning the atmosphere for the summit. Member states keen to ring-fence the interests of their farmers in the World Trade Organisation negotiations on the Doha trade round remain determined to control the detail of the EU position.

Meanwhile, the European Council President's invitation to Hampton Court blithely urges fellow leaders to live up to "the European ideals in which we believe" and to "work together in a spirit of collective endeavour". Since the main agenda items for the October 27 summit are globalisation (the terrain for the Doha talks) and future EU funding (including EU farm spending), the prospects for agreement are less than the tone of the invitation.

Even if any peculiarly cross-Channel antagonisms are removed from the equation, the EU faces tough questions. How far is there consensus on the European ideals that Tony Blair invokes, and what evidence is there at present of a spirit of collective endeavour?

The EU has repeatedly said it wants a successful outcome to the Doha round. But success is likely to require...

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