March 06, 2006
EU Ambassador Addresses U of M Students
John Bruton former Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland addressed students at the University of Michigan today in his new role of European Union Ambassador to Washington. He had some interesting things to say about the EU, the EU in relation to the US and about the Irish language. Here are some excerpts from my notes on his address:
THE EUROPEAN UNION
*European Union (EU) countries have the right to withdraw from the EU unlike US states.
*Unanimity of agreement is required on decisions that relate to crime and security matters within the Union. Qualified majorities are acceptable on other issues. Individual countries have the lead responsibility for matters relating to military involvement and foreign policy whereas the EU has the lead responsibility in matters that relate to cross-border crime, standard setting, commerce and humanitarian issues.
*The EU operates on 7-year budgetary cycles and every country must agree on the budget. The EU cannot borrow and it spends 1% of EU Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
THE EUROPEAN UNION AND THE UNITED STATES
*The EU and the US have 12% of the world's population and 45% of the world's wealth.
*For 1800 of the last 2000 years India and China had relatively greater influence in the world than they have today but India and China were hampered by "European meddling" in their affairs and Europe was boosted by the industrial revolution.
*The level of US investment in the United Kingdom alone is higher than the total level of US investment in Asia.
*A challenge for the US and the EU is how they will deal with an inevitable falling in their percentage of the world's wealth. Will rebalancing take place peacefully or not? The US and the EU need to work together to manage the transition.
*There are huge inequalities in worker pay across the EU. The average worker in Denmark (the highest earners) earns 11 times as much as the average worker in Latvia (the lowest earners). In the US the average worker in Haiwaii (the highest earners) earns twice as much as the average worker in Mississippi (the lowest earners).
*John Bruton disagrees with the Irish requirement where all students must learn what he called a "dead language," the Irish language.
*US companies make 3 times as much profit from investments in Ireland than they do from their investments in China.
*40% of legislation passed in Ireland is build on EU templates and is required by the EU.