Insufficient monitoring 'disastrous' for Ireland

Fri, Dec 17, 2010, 00:00

IRELAND AND the EU must work together to foster economic recovery and to strengthen their processes of reform as both near the end of an “unfulfilled decade”, according to the National Economic and Social Council (NESC).

In a report published today, the Government think tank argues that the success of the European Union is critical to Ireland’s economic and social development.

“This is the context in which difficulties and anxieties in Ireland’s EU experience should be considered,” the council advises in its study, Re-finding Success in Europe: The Challenge for Irish Institutions and Policy.

In the research, it finds that the decade just ending was unfulfilled for Ireland because of its financial problems and for the EU, in part at least, because of its ineffective monitoring of member state economies.

The council notes that in public finance and banking supervision, the lack of “sufficient real benchmarking and diagnostic monitoring” both domestically and at EU level, had “disastrous consequences” for the Irish economy.

The council, which advises the Taoiseach on economic strategy, underlines the importance of implementing the “stronger system of economic co-ordination” agreed at the European Council. It also urges some caution, however, warning that it is possible the EU could become a regime that relies on “fixed” targets and strong sanctions. This would be “worrying” and could fail in the way the stability and growth pact did, according to the council.

Successful implementation of the EU’s 2020 strategy for growth will require reform processes and peer review mechanisms to be strengthened, the report finds.

The report also urges a greater mindfulness of EU programmes when setting national policies. The council had previously emphasised the need for Irish policy to be developed in light of EU policies rather than “in tandem” with them.

“In many policy spheres, the design and implementation of national policy must be undertaken in, and can be greatly enhanced by a process of European goal setting, benchmarking, disciplined review and continuous improvement,” the report notes.

“Only states that can do this will succeed in the new Europe.”

NESC says success in “the 21st century EU” needs an Irish policy system that is better at recording, comparing, analysing and discussing its own policy at agency, departmental, political and EU level. Agencies that have been successful in this to date include the Food Safety Authority and the Environmental Protection Agency, according to the report .

In light of this, reform of Irish public services, in line with existing Government policy, is crucial, it concludes.

Historically, the council says, Ireland has been less successful with EU policies where European involvement has been seen as intruding on sovereignty, or where conformity with EU rules is the sole goal.

Today’s report is a sister publication to The Euro: an Irish Perspective, which was published earlier this year and advised the Government to accept greater EU surveillance of its policies.