Barroso sinks stout with Geldof in break from talks


BRUSSELS:EUROPEAN COMMISSION president José Manuel Barroso sank a pint of Guinness and made a St Patrick’s Day wish for a Yes vote in a second Lisbon referendum yesterday.

Propping up the bar with Third-World activist Bob Geldof at Kitty O’Shea’s pub in the heart of Brussels EU quarter, Mr Barroso wished surprised punters a happy St Patrick’s Day and said if he had just one wish, it was that the EU treaty would be ratified in Ireland.

Geldof, who met the president for talks on how to reduce poverty in Africa, invited Mr Barroso for an impromptu pint, sending his bodyguards and EU journalists scurrying to the popular watering hole for Eurocrats.

He welcomed the support Mr Barroso had shown for his anti-poverty initiatives while acknowledging that change comes in slow, often incremental steps.

“Being a pop singer, I have to learn incrementalism very slowly, but I’m trying to get him [Mr Barroso] pissed so we can move things along more quickly.”

He said the current economic crisis offered a real opportunity to change the system and help poor countries.

“The expertise and talent of half the world’s population have been left out. That is why the economic system became top-heavy and fell over.

“The thing about globalisation is that it enforces co-operation between countries, but we must remember that 50 per cent of the world has until now been excluded,” said Geldof, who also expressed optimism that the Irish economy would recover.

“There will be great pain, great dislocations, but pass it will. Ireland will come out of it. It has too much stuff it can produce and offer to the rest of the world.

“We will get out of it together because the essence of globalisation is enforced co-operation,” he said. “There is no way out of this alone.”

Geldof refused to be drawn on how people should vote in a second Lisbon referendum, although he praised the country for holding a proper debate on the treaty.

“I’m really not saying yes or no, but there is one place guaranteed to have a vital discussion about this [treaty], as opposed to just knocking it through – and that’s the great compliment about that place,” he said.

“We will discuss it, it will be taken seriously and it will be debated in the pubs and houses in Ireland, just as it was the first time and taking into account all the new circumstances,” said Geldof.

He posed for photographs with various other bar customers clad all in green and wearing the familiar Guinness hats to celebrate the national day.

After about 20 minutes, Mr Barroso and Geldof returned to work, leaving half-drunk pints of stout standing on the bar.

Clearly, Geldof’s cunning plan to get the president a bit tipsy hadn’t worked.

To see whether the Irish people will grant Mr Barroso’s St Patrick’s Day wish, Europe will have to wait until the autumn when the second referendum on Lisbon is likely to be held.