Embassy Row

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BAFFLED BY IRELAND

When Irish voters rejected a major expansion of EU powers in June, leaders of the European Union were not the only ones shocked by the maverick streak on the Emerald Isle.

In Washington, EU Ambassador John Bruton, a former Irish prime minister, had to explain why a nation that has benefited widely from EU membership became the first to reject a treaty that supporters claimed would streamline the operations of the 27-nation union. The treaty needed the unanimous support of its members.

“Americans I met were just baffled by the decision,” Mr. Bruton told a subcommittee of the Irish Parliament in Dublin last week. “They could not understand it.”

Mr. Bruton warned that some U.S. business executives were worried about the economic impact on Ireland, one of the best nations for foreign investment because of its low tax policies.

“They had been led to believe that Ireland’s was the EU’s biggest success story - a poor country transformed into a rich one by a combination of EU membership, American investment and good long-term educational and fiscal thinking by successive Irish governments,” he told the subcommittee.

Mr. Bruton said he tried to calm the nerves of the worried American executives.

“I explained that the treaty was not very readable, that the Irish people were really very pro-European, that the EU continued to work well under existing treaties and that, legally, a country was entirely within its rights in rejecting an EU treaty,” he said.

However Mr. Bruton remembered an old Washington maxim: When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

“I do not have to tell politicians like the ones in this room,” he said to the Irish parliamentarians, “that when you are explaining, you are losing.”

DIPLOMATIC TRAFFIC

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Monday

• Yoseph Mulugeta Badwaza, secretary-general of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council, who discusses conditions in Ethiopia in a panel at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Tuesday

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About the Author
James Morrison

James Morrison

James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...

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