Taoiseach wants toxic bank pledge honoured
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has told the European Parliament in Strasbourg that last summer’s commitment by European leaders “to sever the toxic link between banking and sovereign debt” must be honoured.
In a well-received address outlining Irish priorities for its EU presidency, Mr Kenny said he was determined the Republic would exit the EU-IMF programme before the end of this year. He delivered an upbeat assessment of the Irish economy while describing it as “still fragile”. “Last year our economy started to grow again, our exports climbed to record-levels. We’re bringing government spending under control,” he told MEPs.
He said the result could be seen “in lower yields on Irish government bonds” and said recent bond sales had showed that the market confidence that once ebbed is now returning.
He said Irish people continued to labour under the weight of bank-related debt and pointed out that austerity had “brought pain and suffering to many families, many homes. But the Irish people have borne that weight, that pain with remarkable courage and patience and quiet dignity”.
Applause by MEPs
Kenny said 2013 could be the year in which Ireland exited its programme and showed leadership to Europe, a statement which was greeted with applause by MEPs.
In an aspirational speech which was short on detailed proposals, he said the Irish presidency would work towards achieving a real banking union and stressed the need to “work hard and together to renovate, to restore and to renew our union”.
While he was upbeat in his economic assessment, he accepted it would not “console our citizens, our families who have lost jobs, who don’t need to read about the crisis – they live it every day”. He said they would strengthen his resolve and it was “for their sake that we push on and harder with actions to bring stability, new jobs, new growth to the union and reinstall hope and confidence in our people’s lives”.
He said Europe could not “allow a generation to grow up believing that their political leaders have failed” to give them a reasonable chance in life. “Because it is they who are democracy’s future, our future, Europe’s future.”
Mr Kenny cited the need to complete the single market and the removal of barriers to business, increasing trading opportunities and improving competitiveness as “critical in improving the environment for jobs”.
He told MEPs that Ireland had long been at the “heart of Europe” and referred to Irish monks who “left in their small boats to bring the light of learning to the European mind” in the sixth century. “Today Ireland keeps that faith with our Continent, with our union of peoples.
“We keep faith because of our particular idea of Europe. An idea that says despite our national differences as a people we dwell best and deepest always in the shelter, never in the shadow of the other”.
He said Europe needed to steady the crisis-driven period, and return to stability and stressed that Ireland’s presidency would be “all about stability, jobs, growth”.
He highlighted the need to create employment “from the Atlantic to the Urals” our people want and need security. The security that will allow them to live better, safer, richer lives.
“From the wreckage of war we created a peaceful, united, democratic union of peoples and we did all of this within a heartbeat of the possibility. . . of there being no Europe at all,” he said.
He concluded by saying the EU was “not some exclusive distant pavilion. Our union is a family – at times boisterous, anxious, fretful, joyful, always compassionate, always faithful” and he said Ireland would “give all our heart to solving some of Europe’s challenges.”
European Commission president José Manuel Barosso said Ireland’s presidency would be good for Ireland and Europe and he was similarly upbeat in his economic assessment.
Resistance to renegotiating EU treaties
In Strasbourg yesterday European Parliament president Martin Schultz and Taoiseach Enda Kenny reiterated their resistance to renegotiating EU treaties or individual deals between member states and the European Union.
In relation to Britain, Mr Schultz said there was “no realistic possibility” of renegotiating European Union treaties.
He said that, in the European Council, there was no majority in favour of changes.
Noting that it would be “catastrophic” if Britain were to leave the EU, Mr Kenny said he “agreed” with Mr Schultz.
“I cannot see renegotiations for any country in the time ahead. We’re going to have European elections next year, a new commission and it may well be that down the road, in the context of deeper integration in Europe, we may well have to have further treaties – and there’s a process to be gone through there.” SUZANNE LYNCH