EU commissioner sees 'light at end of tunnel' for Ireland


IRELAND IS on a “courageous and difficult” path and it will “bounce back”, EU Commissioner for Internal Markets Michel Barnier said yesterday.

Mr Barnier also confirmed to the Oireachtas European affairs committee that Ireland will maintain control over its domestic taxation policies despite new EU plans to overhaul the Single Market.

The commissioner also met with Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan yesterday during a visit to Dublin which he described as a “sign of solidarity”.

“My conviction is that Ireland has a lot of trump cards,” Barnier told reporters, after addressing representatives of the financial services industry. “I personally am a very strong believer in your country.”

“First of all the population of Ireland – courageous, hard-working people – have good training and good education,” he said. Ireland also has a good record of attracting high-tech companies, “which is not the case for every other country”.

He described Ireland’s budgetary efforts as “courageous” and was positive when asked whether the right steps were being taken to get the country out of its current difficulties.

“Yes. It’s a courageous and difficult path but it’s the right one,” he said. “I can see light .”

He also said that being part of the European framework will make it easier for Ireland to get out of its difficulties.

Earlier in the day, he assured the Oireachtas European affairs committee that EU taxation policy must be decided unanimously by all member states and therefore nothing can be passed without Ireland’s acceptance, including proposals on a common consolidated tax base.

He was addressing the committee on the recently published details of the new Single Market Act.

Fergus Murphy, chairman of the Financial Services Ireland (FSI) and managing director of EBS, said the enhancement of the European Regulatory Framework is “essential to rebuild an effective financial services industry”.

Mr Murphy was speaking at an event hosted by FSI yesterday at which the commissioner spoke.

Meanwhile, the European Commission yesterday launched a consultation process to gather views on possible initiatives to strengthen the regulatory framework for credit rating agencies.

The commission, the European Union’s executive body with powers to propose laws, wants to dilute the influence rating agencies have in markets, such as their mandatory use in determining regulatory capital requirements at banks.

“I’m not going to get rid of the thermometer because it’s not by getting rid of the thermometer that you get rid of the fever.

“I want to make sure my thermometer is working properly,” Barnier said.

– (Additional reporting: Reuters)