Government backs growth agenda of EU summit


EU LEADERS:THE GOVERNMENT has welcomed the primary emphasis on jobs and growth in the agenda for tomorrow’s one-day EU summit meeting, saying it aligns Europe’s agenda closely with the long-established view of the Government.

In a letter sent to all EU leaders yesterday, European Council president Herman Van Rompuy signalled the main theme of tomorrow’s meeting will be on boosting jobs and growth across the European Union.

He said while painful fiscal consolidation needed to continue, the union’s political leaders should now be prepared to discuss innovative, or even controversial, ideas in relation to growth.

“Since we are not going to take any final decisions, I encourage you to engage in as open and frank an exchange as possible, with a view to moving ahead efficiently and constructively towards a credible package in June,” he said.

Mr Van Rompuy set out four themes for tomorrow’s leaders’ dinner in the letter, which has been seen by The Irish Times.

The first was what was described as “sound national economic policies”.

He also referred to the implementation of EU policies that bring “added value”. They included expediting the energy efficiency directive, major trade agreements with other parts of the world, and opening up new markets for EU exports.

The third theme is to improve the financing of the EU’s economy. This includes strengthening the role of the European Investment Bank, a better use of EU structural funds, and the “difficult issue” of a financial transaction tax.

This latter measure is controversial and has been strongly opposed by the British government. Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said in the last week the Government is also opposed, and such a tax would only work on a global basis.

The final theme mentioned in the letter relates to job creation. He said the EU will need to make concrete reforms that must go hand-in-hand with investment.

Mr Kenny said yesterday it was critical that there be a focus from EU leaders on how the growth agenda can be achieved. He said he did not expect any decision to emerge from tomorrow’s discussion.

Speaking in Letterkenny, Co Donegal, Mr Kenny said it was in Ireland’s interest that every EU country was competitive and there were opportunities for growth.

The Taoiseach’s spokesman said the focus on the jobs agenda meant the Government would be “enthusiastic participants” in the discussion.

“Obviously we will be going there to maximise the outcome for Ireland’s interests,” said the spokesman.

“We will expect there to be progress, but final outcomes are more likely at the June [summit].”

Separately, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said yesterday the G8 meeting in the US seemed to have responded to the demands in Europe for a jobs and growth strategy.

Mr Noonan was asked for his view on tomorrow’s meeting while attending an event in Limerick.

“Well, the priority is to formulate policy that they can implement in the short term; to add a jobs and growth strategy to the fiscal correction programmes that are taking place in all the countries now,” he said.

“And, it’s not a question of either/or, it’s a question of both – a second programme has to be run parallel across Europe, and I think that will help very significantly,” he added.