EU parliament chief makes pledge to Ireland


EUROPEAN LEADERS must keep their promise to Ireland on a bank debt deal, showing the same solidarity Ireland showed during the financial collapse, the president of the European parliament has told the Dáil.

Martin Schulz said, to applause: “I believe the Irish programme should be adjusted before the end of the year along the lines of the June European Council conclusion.”

The German parliamentarian asked how they could “regain confidence of our citizens if the highest European body, the council of heads of state of government, is not reliable”.

His comments follow remarks by the finance ministers of Germany, Finland and the Netherlands, which threw the June EU council agreement on a debt deal into doubt. They said last month the programme should deal only with future debts and not “legacy” issues.

In the first address by a president of the European parliament to the Dáil, Mr Schulz told TDs, some senators and a number of MEPs “we will never regain the trust of our citizens if we do not stick to our promises”.

“After all Ireland got into trouble because it took over the debts of its banking system,” he added.

The EU parliament president, an MEP since 1994 and leader since 2004 of the Socialist grouping at the EU parliament, said: “You took the burden on your shoulders to avoid the crash of the system of all the other countries, also my country. Therefore I find the 27 per cent German participation in the package for Ireland is to give back solidarity to the country that gave solidarity to us.”

He echoed comments by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who said Ireland had a “legitimate expectation” that the EU would deliver on the commitments it made at that EU council meeting.

Mr Schulz referred to Ireland’s commitment to put its own house in order and said it had “not only accomplished but over-accomplished the targets the so-called troika set”.

He also expressed his belief in the proposed financial transaction tax, which Ireland opposes. He said those who wished to have this tax “should not be prevented from implementing it on the basis of enhanced co-operation”.

He was addressing the Dáil in advance of Ireland taking on the EU presidency in January and highlighted issues of importance to the parliament. He referred to calls by Britain to cut the EU budget “in a way I will never accept”.

Without that budget Ireland’s success over the years would never have happened. He told Mr Kenny: “You can count on me but be sure, Taoiseach, I count on you as well.”

He said the big member states should not “be able to give lessons to the smaller countries” but issues should be resolved through the “community method”. He also sharply criticised what he called the “European semester”, the process by which Brussels civil servants examine the draft budgets of the 27 EU members before they are adopted by individual states.

Mr Schulz said the civil servants analysed the budgets based on criteria, the “annual growth survey” they themselves had drawn up and not criteria drawn up by national and the EU parliaments and this had to change.

The president of the EU parliament also stressed the importance of Europe’s youth initiative to deal with unemployment.