An Italian man who was attempting to row across the Pacific Ocean solo has had to be rescued from fierce storms just off the Australian coast.
Alex Bellini had been at sea since February when he set out from Peru, 18,000 kilometres (10,000 nautical miles) away. But beset by a raging tempest, he was forced to call for help just 120km from his final destination, the Sydney harbour.
He said: “I didn’t put the cherry on top of the cake. But the cake is very good, very big and I will never forget about it.”
After years of preparation, Bellini can still see the merit of struggling towards a distant goal, even if it remains tantalisingly out of reach. Back in Europe, the 27 leaders of the Eurozone that gathered at the Brussels summit yesterday must be feeling something similar.
Despite having agreed one of the most ambitious climate change deals in the world, which pledged to cut carbon emissions for the Eurozone by 20 per cent by 2020, the niggling problem of the Lisbon treaty remains.
For years, Lisbon has been the thorn in the side of the EU. The treaty is designed to amend previous treaties to streamline the democratic process and includes creating a President of the European Union and High Representative for Foreign Affairs to present a more coherent approach to unified action.
After being turned down by the Irish public in a referendum this summer, it seemed the treaty might sink into the backwaters of EU policy. Yet a plan outlining new concessions to appease Irish voters has reportedly been greeted with enthusiasm by the summit.
These include questions over military neutrality, and fears that it would have to cede control over taxation, ethical and social issues while losing representation in the European Commission.
The UK is seeking more clarity in the legal language referring to the 25 countries that have already ratified the treaty, though Ireland’s foreign minister, Micheál Martin, said that Ireland is looking for the “most robust” guarantees possible.
In the UK the goings on of the EU can often seem little more than the distant rumblings of frustrated bureaucrats. Yet if nothing else, the past six months have taught us that Britain’s fate is inextricably linked with that of the Eurozone.
As EU president, Sarkozy has been instrumental in coordinating the international response to the financial crisis. While Brown has tried to cast himself as the level-headed champion of the crisis, it has been Sarkozy’s mischievous grin that has graced the front pages of papers around the world.
Yet as January approaches and the end of Sarkozy’s term draws ever closer the future of the treaty remains uncertain. The leader-in-waiting, Czech President Vaclav Klaus, is an avowed Eurosceptic and the Czech Republic remains one of two countries that have not ratified the Lisbon Treaty over fears that it would undermine national sovreignity.
Ceding authority at any level will never be a popular move. Yet, the EU itself was born out of the need to present a unified front in a time of crisis.
As the pound plunges to new lows against the Euro and the recession deepens, the spirit of the EU is more important than ever. And we cannot afford look away.