Mix and match sets the summit tone: When it comes to the real priorities of EU leaders, at least Albert Reynolds has his eye on the ball, writes Colin Brown in Corfu

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The Independent Online
THE battle between Jean-Luc Deheane and Ruud Lubbers was put to one side by Albert Reynolds last night to watch the second half of the World Cup match between Ireland and Mexico.

The Irish Prime Minister fitted in the match between a European Council debate on the economy and the important government dinner at which the choice of the new president of the commission was the main course. The game was broadcast to him on Irish TV (RTE) to avoid the problem of translating from the Greek transmission.

John Major and the British delegation were staying at the Imperial Hotel to the north of the old town of Corfu where the conference is being held. They were surrounded by top Greek security but a group of British journalists managed to break through to the bar where they brushed shoulders with Edouard Balladur, the French Prime Minister, without recognising him. This breach of security alarmed a Downing Street official. 'We gave strict instructions that any unaccompanied journalists were to be stopped and shot,' he said.

The Greek security has provided entertainment for the tourists watching motorcades of the 12 leaders converging on the old palace with police out-riders and howling sirens. The sharp suits of the politicians have looked incongruous against the birthday suits on the beaches.

Boris Yeltsin shipped in his presidential Zil for the half-mile journey from Corfu port where the Russian president is staying as a guest of Alexander Latsis on board his luxury liner. Mr Latsis was a contributor to Conservative Party funds before the last election but this may suggest a switch in support from Smith Square to Red Square.

Margaret Beckett, Jack Cunningham and Neil Kinnock were also in town for the alternative show - the meeting of the socialist European leaders who are backing Mr Kinnock to replace Bruce Millan as a European commissioner.

The old town of Corfu, with its French colonial architecture and British plumbing, has not seen anything like it since the filming of the Greek Tycoon. This time, the tycoon is the European taxpayer: pounds 37m was spent on new roads, buildings and phone lines.

The old fortress, which had been quietly rotting away for more than a century, was turned into a hi-tech press centre. Even the Greeks were surprised at their success. 'In February, it was like a building site. We never thought it would be finished,' said one local official.

A new one-way system has deadlocked the traffic, like the talks. When it is all over this afternoon the Corfiots will be left with a town which has been transformed. The leaders will depart after three contented days in the sun. Whether that has been conducive to hard work on the future of Europe remains an open question.