Little scope for influence at EU meetings
Cantillon:The presidency of the European Union is the political equivalent of Viagra, affording endless ratings-boosting photo opportunities for Government ministers as they as chair meetings of their European peers.
But as Michael Noonan candidly admitted to the Irish Tax Institute annual dinner last Friday, they actually have very little scope to influence the subject matter of meetings they chair, the agendas of which have been programmed months if not years in advance.
The only real exception is the “informal” Eurogroup meeting that is held towards the middle of the six-month presidency. The host country gets to put items on the agenda and and can try to get an issue on to the wider European policy agenda.
Noonan told the audience last Friday that he will use the informal meeting to try to make progress on the opening up of the European market for non-bank finance. He is pushing at something of an open door according to his advisers as there is general dissatisfaction in Europe with the availability of bank finance for job creating businesses. The problem – in most cases – being that Europe’s banks are still rebuilding their balance sheets following the 2008 credit crunch and will be cautious lenders at best for some time to come.
Noonan wants his colleagues to discuss how alternative sources of funds could be facilitated and the Irish thinking has in part been informed by their experience of selling Anglo Irish Bank’s €9.5 billion US loan book. This flushed out a panoply of bidders who sourced money from many routes such as the private placement market and investment funds.
Ireland will also point to the recently announced National Pension Reserve Fund initiative which will see the NPRF incentivising the likes of Carlyle, Better Capital and BlueBay to provide funds for Irish business. Quite what Noonan’s colleagues will make of all this new fangled North American thinking remains to be seen. Are they still smarting from subprime or ready to move on?
EIB chief’s cheap-loan plan an easy sell
European Investment Bank vice-president Jonathan Taylor will be pushing an open door today when he meets with a clatter of ministers in Dublin to discuss how the Luxembourg-based bank might support growth in the economy through its cheap loans.
It has disbursed about €3 billion to Ireland over the past five years to support a range of projects – from Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport, to Eirgrid’s east-west interconnector and new schools.
With an additional €60 billion to disburse over the next three years across the EU, Taylor has travelled here to see how it might provide support to Ireland.
The new funds follow on from an injection of €10 billion in capital last year from EU member states – who are shareholders in EIB.
This is money over and above what the EIB would normally lend and is designed to help stimulate growth in Europe’s spluttering economies.