Harney opposed to closer integration of Europe

 

The Tanaiste has come out against further European integration, saying it would be against the interests of Ireland which, she says, is spiritually "a lot closer to Boston than Berlin".

As the debate on deepening EU integration continues, Ms Harney said she was against a more centralised Europe "with key political economic decisions being taken at Brussels level . . . I believe in a Europe of independent states, not a United States of Europe".

Ms Harney's view, expressed in a speech to a meeting of the American Bar Association yesterday, accords with Fianna Fail's approach of commitment to full participation in the EU, but lack of enthusiasm for further integration.

She laid heavy emphasis on Ireland's relationship with the United States and its attractiveness to American business. "The figures speak for themselves," she said. "It is a remarkable fact that a country with just 1 per cent of Europe's population accounts for 27 per cent of US greenfield investment in Europe."

The reason was that American business liked Irish economic values, she suggested, and these values were not shared by some other EU states. "When Americans come here they find a country that believes in the incentive power of low taxation. They find a country that believes in economic liberalisation. They find a country that believes in essential regulation but not over-regulation. On looking further afield they find also that not every European country believes in all of these things."

She said that stereotypical views of the European and US economic models were simplistic, but contained an element of truth. Ireland had tended to operate closer to the US than the European model, she maintained.

The American way, she said, was seen "as being built on the rugged individualism of the original frontiersmen, an economic model that is heavily based on enterprise and incentive, on individual effort and with limited government intervention".

In contrast, the European way was seen as "being built on a strong concern for social harmony and social inclusion, with governments being prepared to intervene strongly through the tax and regulatory systems to achieve their desired outcomes".

While steering a middle course between these two models, "I think it is fair to say that we have sailed closer to the American shore than the European one.

"Look at what we have done over the last 10 years. We have cut taxes on capital. We have cut taxes on corporate profits. We have cut taxes on personal incomes. The result has been an explosion in economic activity, and Ireland is now the fastest-growing country in the developed world."

Ireland had succeeded, she said, because it still retained substantial control over political and economic decisions. This model allowed member-states the freedom to chart their own course for social and economic progress.

"The fact is that Europe is not America and it never will be. The people of Europe are not united by common language, common history and common tradition in the way that Americans are. During the next five years, for instance, the process of enlargement is likely to add a further half-dozen working languages to the European Union.

"It is clear that there is such a thing as a single market for labour in America. Even with the advent of the single currency it is by no means clear that there is a single market for labour in Europe, or that one is likely to emerge any time soon." she said.