As the UK takes over the Presidency of the turbulent European Union, there are more pressing matters on the agenda than the significance of the Presidency's logo. But the UK has been keen to point out that the V-formation of flying swans it has adopted represents the changing but efficient leadership that the six-month Presidency constitutes.

The UK faces a huge challenge in asserting efficient leadership between now and the end of the year. Its initial plans for its Presidency were already demanding, with their focus on contentious dossiers such as chemicals regulation, the Services Directive, further EU enlargement, the Doha development talks, and the Middle East peace process.

But recent events have added new challenges that dwarf the earlier agenda. Above all, the unresolved issue of the EU financing plans for 2007-2013 will command everyone's attention over the coming months. And the UK is in perhaps the worst position possible to obtain a rapid solution. Its determination to seek profound adjustments to EU spending, particularly on agriculture, guarantee a head-on collision not only with France, but also with the new member states, who want an early agreement so they do not suffer delays in accessing EU funding from 2007. Opposition is also gathering within the European Commission, with sharp warnings from both President Barroso and the Agriculture Commissioner.

The UK's strong commitment to...

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