Ibec urges early vote 'to get rid of uncertainty'


THE REFERENDUM on the European Stability Treaty should be held at the earliest opportunity, the Irish Business and Employers Confederation (Ibec) has said.

Speaking on the margins of the EU Tripartite Social Summit yesterday, Ibec director general Danny McCoy said an early vote was needed “to get rid of uncertainty”.

The implications of the treaty were being exaggerated by its critics, he added. “There is nothing in my view much more extensive in the fiscal compact than that which is already there [in existing agreements].”

The proposed structural deficit limit of 0.5 per cent of GDP was being described as harsh, but Mr McCoy said there was room for flexibility: “It’s not a straitjacket.” If the treaty was voted down, there would be “a very serious, immediate cost to it”.

Rejecting the treaty would bar Ireland from access to the European Stability Mechanism which would otherwise have provided “a backstop or a credit-line in 2014”.

This would cause problems if Ireland needed a second bailout but would also hit investor confidence.

Irish Congress of Trade Unions general secretary David Begg was also among those who attended the social summit, in which the current Danish presidency of the EU participated, along with the two subsequent presidencies, Cyprus and Ireland.

Ireland will hold the presidency for the first half of next year and Taoiseach Enda Kenny also attended the event, whose objective is to ensure effective participation of social partners in implementing economic and social policies.

President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy said afterwards: “Today more than ever social dialogue has an important role to play in our common efforts to restore growth and jobs.

“We should make full use of the tools offered by the European Union’s new economic governance.

“At the EU level, regular meetings of the Tripartite Social Summit such as the one we just held remain a useful and fruitful platform for the exchange of views among the European institutions and the social partners.

“The economic situation is different in each member-state. People in some countries felt [sharply] the impact of the crisis and austerity measures which followed. In others it is the lack of confidence of consumers and companies. Restoring confidence in the eurozone is a growth strategy in itself.”

He added: “We are doing our utmost to stimulate growth and employment in the short and longer term. This remains our overriding objective.

“To achieve this we need fiscal sustainability and structural reforms to raise productivity and investment. This is a precondition for growth and jobs,” Mr Van Rompuy said.