John Bruton, former prime minister of Ireland, wants Europeans to become like Americans.
He wants their federation of states, the European Union, to hold presidential elections in the same way as the United States.
“In Europe, when you ask who is in charge, no one knows. No one knows with whom the buck finally stops,” Bruton said. “During the Russian threat, the E.U. was held together by an emotional cement that kept everything in line. We need a new emotional cement.”
During a lecture at the Yale Center for International and Area Studies, Bruton compared the European Union to the United States and discussed a wide range of topics mostly related to the European Union. The audience of about 60 consisted mainly of adults and asked complex questions after the lecture about specific treaties involved in the creation of the European Union.
Calling the European Union “a work in progress,” Bruton said no one could tell yet how far the federation might extend, mentioning Russia as a possible member in the far future. He said the European Union needs to reinforce its democratic legitimacy by further involving European citizens.
One audience member asked why the European Union was needed, saying that he believed citizens living in it did not value it.
“We need the E.U. as a means of managing global forces that would otherwise overwhelm us — forces of disease, of terrorism, economic forces, global and cultural forces,” Burton answered.
Justine Isola ’05 said she enjoyed the speech even though she did not know very much about the European Union.
“I find that coming to these kinds of events definitely enhances my understanding of the world,” Isola said. “I hadn’t thought of the U.S. as a confederation of states like the E.U.”
Bruton also discussed the history of the euro, which is the first modern currency without a state. He expressed concern that this year Ireland disregarded the guidelines for economic policy included in the implementation of the euro.
“If Ireland ignores [the recommendations], why cannot Germany, France or Italy do the same in the future?” he asked. “And if those countries do so, what control at all would there be on fiscal policy in the euro-currency area?”
These problems could result in a breakdown of the E.U. economic system, Bruton said.
Bruton also discussed security, outlining plans for a 60,000 person “Rapid Reaction Force” under the control of the European Union that it will establish in 2003.
At 22, Bruton was the youngest member of the Dail Eireann, or House of Representatives, when he was elected in 1969. Since then he has held numerous positions in his political party, Fine Gael, including an 11-year stint as deputy leader that ended in February 2001. He served as prime minister of Ireland from 1994 to 1997. Since the E.U. presidency rotates in six-month terms, Bruton served as president of the European Union for six months during his term as prime minister.