Ross describes comments by Rehn as 'patronising'

Thu, Mar 15, 2012, 00:00

BIG EU member states and “malingerers” could be able to operate an “à la carte” attitude to the EU fiscal compact treaty, picking the elements they want to breach or accept, it has been claimed.

Independent TD Shane Ross warned that smaller countries like Ireland and Hungary would have the “poor man’s table d’hôte” and would have little choice. “We’re going to do what we’re told by Olli Rehn,” he said in a strongly worded attack on the EU commissioner for monetary affairs, whom he described as “patronising”.

Mr Ross was speaking in the wake of comments by Mr Rehn on Tuesday when he ruled out a delay in the repayment by Ireland of the €3.1 billion promissory note by the end of March.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny rejected claims that the Government had raised unrealistic expectations about the promissory note on the former Anglo Irish Bank.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the Taoiseach had made promises about keeping people informed, using the phrase “Paddy likes to know”, but he said that in relation to the promissory note and talk of flexibility or write-downs “Paddy doesn’t know”.

He asked Mr Kenny if the Government formally had sought a deal extending the obligation over 30 years or if it was “actually seeking a writedown of the money owned to the Irish Central Bank?”

Mr Kenny replied: “We have made it clear that a longer period and a lower interest rate would be of enormous importance to Ireland,” but he insisted “this country has always met its commitments” and in some cases exceeded them.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams also criticised Mr Rehn’s “arrogant” comments that respecting commitments and obligations was a key tradition under EU law.

“Since when? This law was never applied to France or Germany” which breached stability and growth pact rules but whose leaders “stand up for themselves and their people”.

He accused the Taoiseach of acquiescing “at every turn” and said the Government was not asking for a writedown or flexibility “but you’re not going to get it if you’re not looking for it”.

Mr Ross said there was a danger that “we’re entering into an à la carte Europe where the big countries and the malingerers are being allowed to pick and choose where they’re going to breach the treaty and where they are going to be made exceptions of.

“But Ireland and Hungary are going to be at the poor man’s table, the table d’hôte, and they’re not going to be able to do that. We’re going to do what we’re told by Olli Rehn and I think it was patronising of commissioner Rehn to speak to Ireland in that way after what you have done,” the Dublin South TD told the Taoiseach.

“You are the most compliant Taoiseach, the most compliant leader in Europe and I don’t think you should take it from him.”

Mr Ross said Greece was the first exception to the rule Mr Rehn was making and Spain was the second exception because it was “given leeway on its budget deficit”. Mr Kenny said Spain had to comply with the 3 per cent by the end of next year and “Ireland was given an extra year from the end of 2014 to the end of 2015”. Discussions were under way on a paper undertaken by the troika.

“I’ve never set a time limit on these. I’ve never tried to raise expectations about their conclusion,” he said. The “discussions and negotiations continue” and should be allowed to do so.