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."
Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:
• 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.
• Three contemporary Japanese architects - Norihiko Dan, Kuma Kengo and Kiyoshi Sey Takeyama - who display their designs for modern Japanese teahouses at a reception hosted by the Japanese Embassy.
• Nikolay Petrov of the Carnegie Moscow Center, who discusses the sudden crisis that hit Russia's financial markets. He appears with James F. Collins, U.S. ambassador to Russia from 1996 to 2001, in a forum at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
• Joao Soares of Portugal, president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), who holds a 10 a.m. news conference at the National Press Club to report on the results of an OSCE observation team that monitored the U.S. presidential election.
• Ahmad Fahim Hakim, deputy chairman of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, and Ali Jalali, former interior minister of Afghanistan and author of "Future of Afghan Security Forces." They discuss the future of Afghanistan in a forum at the United States Institute of Peace.
• John Crabtree, research associate at the Center for Latin American Studies at Britain's Oxford University, and Laurence Whitehead, official fellow in politics at Nuffield College at Oxford. The co-editors of "Unresolved Tensions: Bolivia Past and Present" address a briefing sponsored by the Inter-American Dialogue and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail James Morrison