It's goodbye time for the current European Commission. As October 31 approaches, the Brussels air is thickening with valedictory messages and retrospective assessments from key figures departing after their five years in office.

Public figures always wish to influence their treatment by history, and customarily focus on a specific time frame so that they can present their contribution as a crucial influence on a decisive period.

Outgoing Commission President Romano Prodi, in his farewell remarks over recent days, has maximised this approach. Not entirely without justification.

He can legitimately claim to have overseen the Commission in historic times, as "changes a have truly transformed our Union's political and institutional framework".

It has indeed "taken on continental dimensions", in fulfilment of his often-repeated conviction that the biggest contribution the Union could make to stability and development across Europe was successful enlargement to realise Europe's unification.

And so that an enlarged EU can function adequately, he has indeed "been engaged in constant negotiations on institutional issues" - the application of the Amsterdam Treaty, the Nice Conference, the European Convention, and finally, the adoption this year of the Constitutional Treaty.

But a five-year focus is not an appropriate measure for the European Union's progress or problems.

Enlargement is still far...

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