Corridors of Power

NO RED CARPET FOR PRODI -- Ten months after Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi's election, he still has not been invited to the White House, and political commentators in Rome have concluded that the center-left coalition leader is being given the Bush cold shoulder. It's unusual for the new prime minister of a key NATO country not to have visited Washington sooner, but the word from Italy is that this is the Bush administration's way of expressing its displeasure with the way the bilateral relationship is going.

The left wing of Prodi's government, which includes the Communists, is pressing for an early withdrawal of Italy's 1,800 troops in Afghanistan (a phased pullout of Italians from Iraq is already under way). Townspeople in the northern city of Vicenza have staged protests against plans to expand the nearby U.S. base that's being used as a staging point for supplying Iraq. Although there may be issues, a well-informed European source in Washington believes that "It's personal -- a sign of presidential displeasure." The source points out that conservative leader Silvio Berlusconi was a faithful Bush ally in the Iraq war, and President Bush is in no hurry to welcome the man who ousted Berlusconi in Italy's April election.

So Italy's prime minister joins his Spanish counterpart Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in the White House's black books. Zapatero beat another Bush supporter, Jose Maria Aznar, in 2004 and then immediately withdrew Spain's troops from Iraq. Zapatero hasn't set foot in Washington either. Which raises the question of how Gordon Brown will fare when he succeeds Tony Blair as British prime minister. Brown is no favorite with the Bush administration: He is lukewarm on the war, and wants to lavish more money on Africa than the Bush administration is willing to give.

NOT LOST IN TRANSLATION -- The admission of Romania and Bulgaria into the European Union has put further strain on its already beleaguered translation and interpreting services. All 27 "member languages" in the European Union receive equal treatment whether it be Germany's, the largest state, or Malta's, the smallest with a population of under 400,000. There was a proposal to make English the official EU language. Predictably, the French led the offensive against that idea, so over 2,000 translators and interpreters in Brussels face the mammoth task of translating the EU's current annual output of 60,000-70,000 documents into all the other languages.

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