Ireland signs joint proposal on EU growth


THE GOVERNMENT has aligned itself with Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and Estonia, in a joint proposal to EU leaders for new measures to stimulate economic growth in Europe.

In a paper submitted in advance of today’s summit in Brussels, the six countries call for action to deepen the single market, reduce the regulatory burden on industry and boost youth employment.

Ireland’s involvement underscores the Government’s effort to delink the State from the two other EU-International Monetary Fund bailout recipients – Greece and Portugal – and to associate itself with pro-business market-oriented countries in northern Europe.

Although the new fiscal treaty and uncertainty over the second Greek bailout loom large over the summit, European Council president Herman van Rompuy called the meeting to discuss new measures to revive the European economy.

Mr van Rompuy has asked Taoiseach Enda Kenny to introduce a debate at the summit on measures to help boost small- and medium-sized firms. On this subject the joint paper co-signed by Ireland calls for exemptions for “micro-businesses” from new EU regulations, long an issue of contention for small- and medium-sized firms.

“Exemptions should be considered on a case-by-case basis to maintain the integrity of the single market,” the paper says.

Under discussion at the summit is a proposal from European Commission chief José Manuel Barroso to reallocate within member states some €82 billion in unspent EU structural funding and €22 billion in unspent social funding for projects to boost employment.

Any such initiative would have a negligible impact in Ireland as the Government has already allocated almost all the structural and social funding it receives to specific projects. There is no proposal to reallocate unused funding between member states.

The paper, which runs to two pages, calls for a strong commitment to implement structural reforms at EU and national level and makes the argument that that is essential for long-term growth and short-term confidence.

On the reform of the internal market, the paper calls on EU leaders to resulated professions to a minimuolve to reduce the number of regm and to modernise the EU copyright regime. It calls on leaders to take a final decision on a unitary EU patent and says further steps should be taken to improve the implementation of legislation on the single market.

The countries also call for new measures to advance Europe’s trade with global partners and say more of the EU budget should be deployed to contribute to employment and competitiveness.

They say 2012 should be a decisive year to agree the outline of an EU-India free-trade agreement and conclude talks with Canada and countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. They also say free-trade agreement talks with Japan should be started.

“The EU should seize the opportunity to establish a modern and forward-looking EU budget that underpins national efforts to promote economic growth,” the paper says.