Enda Kenny admits ‘comments’ made to him about availability for top EU job

Taoiseach holds talks with Dutch PM Mark Rutte to discuss EU issues

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Dutch prime minister  Mark Rutte at Government Buildings yesterday. Photograph: Alan Betson

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte at Government Buildings yesterday. Photograph: Alan Betson

Wed, Jun 11, 2014, 11:12

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has acknowledged “comments” made to him in relation to presidency of the European Commission some months ago but said the matter went no further than that.

Mr Kenny made his remarks at a press event in Government Buildings with Dutch premier Mark Rutte, who ranks among the EU leaders who has doubts about the nomination of former Luxembourg prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker to lead the commission.

The Taoiseach, who supports Mr Juncker, was responding to a question as to whether he had had ever been approached about letting his name go forward to take a senior European post.

Without saying who spoke with him, Mr Kenny said comments were made before centre-right leaders gathered in Dublin last March to select Mr Juncker as the candidate of the European People’s Party, Fine Gael’s affiliate in the European Parliament.

“In respect of the presidency of the commission from the EPP point of view, we’ve had a congress, a contest, a vote and a candidate and that’s the official position and we support Jean-Claude Juncker in that regard,” the Taoiseach said.

Matter now irrelevant

“There were comments made to me prior to the congress here in Dublin and that matter is now irrelevant.”

He added: “I made it perfectly clear I was a strong supporter of the process that we went into – with Jean-Claude Juncker as the candidate of the EPP – and that’s the position.”

Asked whether such comments were made at the level of other prime ministers, Mr Kenny said the matter had ended . “No more than at any other convention, you’ll have lots of comments made about this, that and the other,” he said.

“The position is very clear. We have a candidate. Jean-Claude Juncker is the EPP nominee, the largest voting bloc of the parliament. He has the support of the members of the EPP and that’s it.”

Focus on substance

Both Mr Kenny and Mr Rutte said their focus was on the substance of what was required from the EU institutions to bolster the economy rather than on the nominees for particular posts.

“I do believe that it should be content first and who will fill the post later,” Mr Rutte said.

Asked about Irish claims for further bank debt relief from Europe, Mr Rutte said he and the rest of Europe recognised Ireland’s “huge” effort to overcome the financial crisis.

“In terms of the future, I am aware of intense debate in Ireland on bank debt relief for example and in this I would say my focus now is on getting the instruments approved and this should now be the first thing we have to focus on,” Mr Rutte said.