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Jewish World Review June 13, 2001/ 23 Sivan 5761

Wesley Pruden

Wes Pruden
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It's off to see Europe, to get a belly-full -- IRISH voters told Europe last week to get lost, sort of, and what that did to the Treaty of Nice, which sets out the foundation for a European superstate, was not very nice.

Irish voters, ignoring instructions from their government, their newspapers and television networks and businessmen eager to trade sovereignty for bigger markets in trusses, brassieres, bedpans and other stuff, refused by a decisive margin to ratify the treaty. The Irish, who treasure their neutrality with such relish that they even winked at the Nazis during World War II, are particularly reluctant to send Irishmen to join the European Unionīs continental army.

The Irish vote is crucial because unless all 15 members of the EU ratify it (or unless the Europeans decide to ignore the terms of the union) there can be no further expansion of Europe. Without expansion to the east, the Brussels bureaucrats insist, the European Union will die. Or at least wilt.

So distraught are the European foreign ministers that they sent an emissary to Dublin yesterday to ask for an explanation of the parts of "no" they donīt understand. The Irish minister of foreign affairs, as disappointed as anyone in Brussels, could only offer an "examination" of the vote, decisive all over Eire. A spokesman for Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, sounding suspiciously like a Bill Clinton clone, explains how "no" should actually be read as "yes."

"There is an acceptance that the campaign failed," he said. "The 'Yesī people made the mistake of trying to fight on the basis of what was actually in the treaty. People did not reject the treaty. They [just] did not vote for it."

The Germans, determined to snuff this early threat to their dream of a Fourth Reich, insist that Irish voters could stuff it for all Berlin cares. Said a spokesman for Gerhard Schroeder: "While we respect the decision of the Irish people, naturally the enlargement process goes forward, no question."

Such bravado is mostly moonshine and in their hearts the Euromeisters know it. The Dublin government can ask for concessions in the Treaty of Nice as a condition of a second referendum -- as the Danes did a decade ago -- but the Germans are unlikely to agree to the necessary concessions.

What bugs the Europeans, socialists nearly all, is that the Irish economy is humming like no other in Europe, and humming to a low-tax, free-market score. Earlier this year the minister for finance, with the fine Irish name of Charlie McCreevy, was ordered by Brussels to raise taxes as a means of curbing further growth and prosperity. Itīs what Brussels calls "harmonization," meaning that the high taxes and low productivity that are the marks of socialist societies must be spread around. But good olī Charlie -- "even his mother couldnīt manage to call him couth," the London Daily Telegraph describes him -- wouldnīt be bullied. He cut taxes even further, getting squarely in Europeīs face. Growth quickened. Inflation fell. This did not please the bureaucrats.

This is the stew that George W. Bush flew off to sample late yesterday, to meet his cranky European counterparts in the wake of their bitter frustration. The counterparts are determined to do things in their old ways and theyīre frustrated that the Americans, with the can-do spirit that so often infuriates the rest of the world, want to try something new. Mr. Bush, pausing in the Rose Garden on the way to the airport, promised certain new technological initiatives on global warming, in a wan hope of deflecting inevitable European criticism. He pointedly noted that the Kyoto treaty, doctrine regarded in the European capitals much as the Vatican regards the doctrine of the Virgin Birth, is "fatally flawed" because it exempts China and India, who more or less invented pollution.

Not only that, he has made it clear that he wants European cooperation in building the space shield, but like it or not he intends to build it anyway.

He arrives on a continent that is contemptuous of him, disdainful of America. "The common European perception of [Mr. Bush]," an unnamed "high official" of the U.S. government told the New York Times, "is of a shallow, arrogant, gun-loving, abortion-hating, Christian fundamentalist Texas buffoon." This is no more accurate than a perception of Germans as Nazis or the French as collaborators, but a certain kind of European loves this view of America as he loves his sausages and swill.

Mr. Bush may or may not change these views, but he can, in a way as civil as he can manage, let his counterparts in on the little secret that America no longer needs Europe, any more than Europe thinks it needs us. Itīs a nice thing he could do.

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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