Through what is probably an accident of scheduling, next week's European Council (22 November) coincides with the American festival of Thanksgiving. There is a superficial congruence – members of a dispersed, extended family travel vast distances to see each other – but there are also profound differences. One is an occasion for celebrating good fortune; the other is an occasion for howling about poverty, as leaders argue over the EU's budget for 2014-20.
Some will take as their starting-point a paper prepared by the Cypriot government, which has been chairing the budget discussions in the general affairs council and has put forward figures for each budget chapter and heading. That provides another handy way to distinguish between the European Council and a Thanksgiving dinner. The American president marks Thanksgiving with the pardoning of a turkey. The Cypriot government would never do that.
When you are in the middle of delicate negotiations on the EU's budget, the last thing you need is a destabilising leak. But that is what happened to the Commission's budget department on Monday, as staff tried to salvage talks on the EU's 2012 budget and on the 2013 budget, which had broken up on Friday without agreement.
Not for them the casual leaking of information, but rather a gas leak: passers-by were treated to the sight of flames dancing out of a hole in the pavement on Avenue d'Auderghem, outside the budget department's offices. Security staff closed the entrance to the budget department before any more holes could be burned in the 2012 finances, but it sounds as though the Commission should keep up its insurance payments.