In Europe, simple addition could divide the union

There is a little more logic in their position than at first might appear. In their recent study of the voting system proposed in the constitutional draft, Moshe Machover and Dan Felsenthal show that it would favour both large and small states but puts states of middling size at a significant disadvantage. They also say that EU politicians understand less about the mathematics than they should, and are more interested in blocking power to prevent measures they do not like than they are in having the power to push things through.

This observation is a key to the problem. European states are in a negative mood. The fearful nature of national politics in most European states at the moment is the beginning of this negativism. France is going through one of its periods of self-doubt and self-criticism. Germany, although seeming to outsiders still a highly successful society, is consumed by exaggerated economic worries.

Britain has experienced a post-Iraq loss of belief in government, less than justified by the facts but real none the less. Italy has been disturbed by the lurches and stratagems of the Berlusconi regime and its conflation of political and media power. Sweden’s lack of popular engagement with the EU was demonstrated by its vote on joining the eurozone. Poland, perhaps in this typical of all the new eastern members, is fearful of dictation from old Europe and of what it sees as French and German irresponsibility on relations with the US. There is hardly a happy face out there in the European circle.