Perhaps it’s just bravado, or the effects of one extra Guinness for the road, but the Yes camp appears less nervous than you might think. On Tuesday night, only 36 hours before the polls open for Ireland’s referendum on the European Union’s Lisbon treaty, an adviser to an Irish government minister reviewed the state of the world from his seat in a Dublin bar and confided that he expected a 52 to 48 per cent victory for the pro-Lisbon forces.
This morning, I put his forecast to a prominent businessman in the Irish capital. “Oh really? I’d heard 53 to 47,” he replied.
A dozen campaign volunteers standing around a large white truck, a dozen reporters with microphones and notebooks, and a handful of pedestrians trying to squeeze past on the pavement: this wasn’t exactly the largest crowd at a political event in Dublin’s history.
But if Declan Ganley, the self-made businessman who is one of the loudest voices calling on Irish voters to reject the European Union’s Lisbon treaty in Thursday’s referendum, was disappointed by the low turn-out, he was giving nothing away.
China’s hunger for African raw materials is well-known. Less well-known, but utterly fascinating, are the stratagems which China uses to satisfy its hunger.
A few months ago, some officials from Beijing were being shown around Belgium’s Royal Museum for Central Africa, which is located in Tervuren on the outskirts of Brussels. Known for short as the Africa Museum, this is one of the world’s great anthropological, zoological and geological institutes, with wonderful collections of ethnographic objects, insects and tropical wood as well as an active scientific research centre.
With apologies to France, whose eagerly awaited European Union presidency has not yet even started, it is tempting to cast one’s eyes forward and wonder what will happen when the Czech Republic begins its six-month spell in the driving seat next January.
The question is preoccupying more people in Brussels than you might think – starting with José Manuel Barroso. The European Commission president went to Prague last month and gave a rather curious speech in which he urged the Czechs to use their presidency “as an opportunity to engage with Europe”. You can’t imagine him needing to say something like that in Dublin, Rome or Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, which holds the EU presidency at the moment.