On the offensive in pursuit of that elusive bank debt deal
Kenny met José Manuel Barroso, chief of the European Commission, for a 40-minute tête-à-tête before the wider Government group met the college of commissioners. The two men know each other well by now with Barroso directly addressing the Taoiseach as “my dear Enda” and “my good friend”.
When Kenny addressed the plenary session of the commission and cabinet, he spoke first in Irish. This led Barroso to say the Europeans were well accustomed to “exotic” languages, at which point economics commissioner Olli Rehn said the most exotic language of all was spoken by his former colleague Charlie McCreevy.
A working lunch followed. With lobster tail on the menu and fillet of swordfish and eggplant caviar, this was not an occasion for deficit sinner’s soup and cutback grill. The wine was a 2007 Chardonnay from Alois Lageder in northern Italy.
Onwards then to meet again with reporters, an occasion for Barroso to say EU leaders must stick to their commitments on bank debt. When it inevitably came to the tricky topic of whether the storied “deal” at the June summit actually embraced legacy debt, the commission chief said he did not want to engage in semantics and then read out the summit conclusions.
At this point attention was again turning to affairs back home. Labour members of the delegation are said to have taken a dim view of the news that two of the party’s MEPs were calling for Dr Reilly’s head. The Taoiseach said the Minister retained his confidence. “The Government have given absolute backing to Minister Reilly,” he added.
The Kenny entourage then left to go across the street for talks with European Council president Herman Van Rompuy.
No fewer than three summits are scheduled before the end of the year and another four are in store during the six months of the Irish presidency. Amid argument and doubt over the scope of plans for a new euro zone “banking union” and the certainty of conflict over the next EU budget round, the agenda is already crowded.
There will be more of this, plenty more. With under 100 days to go before the presidency begins, the countdown starts in earnest. Although the October deadline for a bank deal fell by the way, the campaign continues. Expect further demands. “We use the opportunity all the time . . . whoever we’re talking to,” said Gilmore.