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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

With Beef Battle Over, EU Must Talk Turkey

FLORENCE, Italy -- European Union leaders ended their "beef war" with Britain with a bit of fine diplomacy over the weekend, but left their mid-year summit knowing that many more squabbles lie ahead as they prepare for the 21st century.


Gathered for two days in Niccolo Macchiavelli's city, the leaders took to heart a maxim from the Renaissance diplomat's book "The Prince" and solved a problem before public emotions made it insoluble.


The summit agreed upon a plan for the gradual lifting of the worldwide ban on British beef, imposed amid fears that mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, could be transmitted to humans.


By doing so, they did enough to allow British Prime Minister John Major to end a policy of disrupting EU business which had infuriated some of them and led to charges of blackmail and hostage-taking.


What the leaders gave Major was portrayed by mocking British newspapers as a mere token, but it was enough. Any lifting of the ban will be based on science, meeting the needs of leaders pressured by the health concerns of their voters.


German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said the compromise removed "a dark cloud from Europe."


Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, the summit host, spoke of the end of a "sad chapter."


Bitterness remains, however, with some leaders pledging never to allow such blocking to happen again and some talking darkly of making Britain pay for its actions.


The leaders also left Florence with plenty of potential for trouble ahead of them.


Having spoken firmly for close to three years about fighting Europe's stubborn unemployment, the leaders agreed a strategy for creating jobs -- a "Confidence Pact" pushed forcefully by European Commission President Jacques Santer.


But they failed to agree one high-profile element of the pact, a plan to spend 1.2 billion European currency units ($1.5 billion) on cross-border, job-creating infrastructure projects.


Germany and others argued that the private sector was a better source of funding and that governments struggling to balance the books to prepare for the EU's single currency had to save every pfennig they could.


The move left for a later stage a fight among EU finance ministers over how to back the words of the pact with the hard cash many believe is needed for jobs to be created.


Most likely to stir division, however, was a unanimous decision by the leaders to order up a draft new treaty to be ready for their end-of-year summit in Dublin.


Motivation for the move was a belief that talks on Europe's future, the inter-governmental conference, or IGC, were becoming bogged down and needed a push.


"The IGC should now enter into real negotiations and it should move into a higher gear," Santer said.


What the move means is that the real divisions over the direction of Europe, many of them caused by reluctant Britain, will now be forced higher up the agenda.


Major joined his colleagues in calling for work to be speeded up, saying the time of "shadow boxing" was over.


Now the gloves can really come off.