- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A new union

John Bruton, the European Union’s top diplomat in Washington, asked Americans to think about what the European Union has done over the past decade by imagining a merger of the United States and Mexico.

Citizens of the 50 U.S. states and the 31 Mexican states would be free to move and work anywhere in the new union. Spanish and English would be the official languages. Poorer states would get subsidies from the richer ones, and the combined population of more than 400 million would still be less than the EU population of nearly 500 million.

“That’s essentially what the EU has done over the past 10 years,” Mr. Bruton, a former prime minister of Ireland, told reporters this week at a forum with the ambassadors of Bulgaria, Germany and Slovenia and the charge d’affaires from the Romanian Embassy.

However, his enthusiasm was dampened by what he called “ennui” among many Europeans who are taking EU expansion for granted.

“I am very proud at what we have achieved, and I’m happy to mount the bully pulpit to proclaim it,” he said. “I only wish more Europeans were proud of the achievement.”

The forum was the latest event in a diplomatic road show that began last week when Ambassador Elena Poptodorova of Bulgaria and Charge d’Affaires Daniela Gitman of Romania raised the blue EU flag with the circle of 12 gold stars at their embassies to celebrate their countries’ full membership in the union.

Since 1995, the bloc grew from 15 nations with a combined population of about 300 million to 27 nations today with nearly a half-billion citizens. Mr. Bruton explained that it is a political union of nations that chose democratically to join, adopted more than 8,000 pages of EU regulations and relinquished some of their national sovereignty to become part of the larger union.

Ambassador Klaus Scharioth of Germany, which holds the current six-month rotating presidency of the union, said the inclusion of Bulgaria and Romania means that “Europe is whole, complete and united again.”

Mrs. Poptodorova noted the difficulty of a country like Bulgaria making the “painful” political and economic changes from a communist state to a modern democracy with a market economy.

“This is a 10-century dream come true,” she said of her country’s 1,000-year quest for stability.

Mrs. Gitman said EU membership for Romania means that her country is a “new frontier of opportunity in Europe.”

Ambassador Samuel Zbogar of Slovenia, which joined the bloc in 2004, celebrated his country’s full adoption of the EU currency, the euro. Joining the “euro zone” meant deep reforms that brought national debt, interest rates, inflation and other economic measures into line with EU standards.

FBI probes attack

FBI agents are investigating the rocket attack last week on the U.S. Embassy in Greece, Ambassador Charles Ries said in a television interview in Athens.

He said agents flew to the Greek capital over the weekend and are working with Greek authorities to try to enhance security camera footage of the Friday attack by a rocket- propelled grenade, which damaged a third-floor bathroom but caused no injuries to embassy staff. Greek officials suspect domestic terrorists are responsible.

The ambassador said embassy cameras recorded the nighttime attack but the image was poor.

“It shows the missile streaking across the street and into the embassy,” Mr. Ries told NET television. “It was dark. It’s not as good as we want. We’re bringing in some experts to see what we can do in terms of looking at the files, ways to enhance it.”

Athens police are trying to persuade a national government agency to grant it access to traffic cameras outside the embassy compound, the Associated Press reported. The Greek Data Protection Agency, citing privacy issues, has blocked access to the cameras that were installed as part of a $1.3 billion security package for the 2004 Olympics.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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