Redesign of EU needed to secure future, says Creighton

Fri, Jul 27, 2012, 01:00

EUROPEAN ECONOMY:AN AMBITIOUS redesign of the European Union is needed to secure its future for citizens, Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton said.

In a speech to the MacGill Summer School, Ms Creighton said the EU was “complex and often laborious by necessity”.

She said it was legitimate to ask whether we would be better off released from the “shackles” of the EU decision-making process, with more flexibility and autonomy and “a lot less compromise with others”.

The answer was “an unequivocal no”. She said it was from compromise that European co-operation was born and “the massacre and economic obliteration of the first World War and second World War was left behind”.

Ms Creighton said we could not hope on our own to compete with emerging economies. “Together we can realign and reshape our European economy, so that European citizens, including Irish citizens, can continue to enjoy a decent standard of living, with, most importantly, prospects, opportunities and hope for future generations.”

She questioned how we could create an EU and a currency union that was robust, that could take decisions fast, that was competitive, that set standards for the rest of the world and that catered to the economic and social needs of its citizens.

“Federal” was deemed in Ireland to be “a bad word”, she said, but what was needed was a “competitive, federal Europe”.

“I don’t advocate a federation like that in the United States of America.  That would not work in a union of sovereign states as we have in Europe,” she said. “Rather, I favour a federation of nation states, one which is built on the basis of the diversity of its members.” She said she saw a new federal system as providing a vehicle for member states to assert their economic sovereignty in the global economy.

Prof Brigid Laffan of UCD said the crisis in the euro area was “the deepest crisis in the history of European integration. It is a systemic crisis of the euro area and if the euro area cannot be maintained or implodes, it will also prove systemic for the EU as a whole”, she said.

Dr Alan Ahearne of the department of economics at NUI Galway, an adviser to late former minister for finance Brian Lenihan and a member of the Central Bank Commission said the markets were looking to see, at least in the short term, whether EU leaders could agree a vision of where the EU was going, “even if it takes a long time to get there”.

At an earlier session on Irish economic prospects, Patrick Lenain, head of the economics department at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, had said with “bold measures” the Government had stopped the fiscal crisis and put the budget deficit on a downward path. “Staying the course of deficit reduction in 2013 and beyond is important to stabilise the public debt and regain access to market funding.”