by RAY FLEMING
EUROPOPHILES, among whom this writer counts himself, are having a very bad week. It started with mixed messages from the British government which seemed to suggest that it was cooling towards the proposed European Constitution. There followed the disgraceful episode in which France and Germany were allowed to disregard the fiscal terms of the fundamental Stability and Growth Pact and get away scot-free. Then yesterday the Italian government, currently in charge of finalising the Constitution, introduced a number of previously undiscussed amendments which immediately caused Britain and other countries to get out their red pens and draw more lines under items they consider a proposal too far. It will be surprising if Italy succeeds in finalising the Constitution before its presidency of the council of ministers ends on 31 December. And, truth to tell, there may be several EU member countries which think that the erratic and somewhat sinister Silvio Berlusconi should not be the man to get the credit for piloting the document with which the EU is expected to navigate for the next 25 years. This week's negative developments followed the refusal of the EU's Court of Auditors to sign off most of the organisation's accounts for the past year something that has become almost an annual event. In this case, as in many others affecting the way the EU does its business, the most worrying problem is the lack of awareness among its leaders of the impression of self-satisfied arrogance that they give to the public at large: Signor Prodi buck-passing over the accounts; the French and German finance ministers congratulating themselves on a good day's work for their own country; Gordon Brown joining with the others to let Berlin and Paris of the hook.