With a bounce in his step, a charming Irish accent, spectacles and a pink tie, John Bruton, the European Union’s ambassador to the United States and former Irish prime minister, yesterday said it will be crucial to maintain world peace as India and China overtake the major Western powers.
Bruton spoke to faculty and students at the International Institute over lunch and lectured later at the Rackham auditorium.
Europe and the United States form about 12 percent of the world’s population and control 40 to 45 percent of the world’s wealth, according to Bruton. But he said that may soon change.
“Our share of the world’s income will decline as other countries emerge,” he said, citing budding powers India and China.
Bruton said whether the rebalancing of power is a peaceful process hinges on the United States and Europe’s willingness to cooperate with each other.
“If the situation is handled unilaterally, it is more likely to be mismanaged,” Bruton said. “By working together, we have a better chance of ensuring liberal values, and by those I mean human rights and dignity.”
Bruton stressed the importance of the United States’s economic ties with Europe.
“I want Michigan students to know that in terms of business and investing in jobs, the most important relationship Michigan will have is with Europe,” he said in an interview.
Bruton said the EU’s role in European politics is to deal with issues that cross borders.
“We are concerned with regulating ducks being shot in France because those ducks fly across borders,” he said. “We care about water pollution on beaches because that water spreads across Europe. We care about drug possession and crime in one country because that affects the other countries.”
Michael Kennedy, director of the Center for European Studies and European Union Center, noted the Ambassador’s creative approach to his work.
“He is an effective advocate of improving and enhancing European-American relations,” he said.
Sociology Prof. Fatma Muge Gocek criticized Bruton as lacking a global perspective. She urged him to concentrate more on Europe and the United States’s cooperation with other parts of the world.
“Instead of (Europe and the United States) united by exploitation of the world, they should be united by another vision of the future,” she said.
LSA senior Asier Ansorena said he was disappointed, claiming the ambassador was too careful with what he said.
“I heard nothing surprising from him today,” Ansorena said.
Bruton stressed that it is not his job to be polarizing, but rather to provide diplomacy.
“I represent 25 countries,” he said.