PRESIDENTS, prime ministers, finance ministers and foreign ministers seem to have been in continuous meetings over the past few days. Whether in
Washington, New York, London, Paris or Brussels they have been dealing with the interconnected problems of the global finance crisis. Today, several of these travellers will settle down briefly at a two-day summit meeting of the European Union in Brussels. This summit is a fixture in the EU's calendar, a midterm gathering of the rotating presidency. Whether those present will be able to get past an emergency discussion on the overriding financial issue remains to be seen - there is plenty to discuss including the question of what steps, if any, Ireland intends to take following its rejection of the Lisbon Treaty earlier this year. An important agenda item will be future relations with Russia. Germany and Italy want to resume discussions with Moscow on trade, energy and political links. The talks were suspended at the time of the Georgia crisis in early August and other countries, led by Britain, think that they should remain frozen until outstanding issues on the newly-independent South Ossetia and Abkhazia have been addressed. It is interesting to see how often the issue of whether to talk or not to talk comes into political discourse nowadays. The extreme case is that between the US and Iran but elsewhere there are many divergent views on the relative advantages of talking or not talking.


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