Kenny and Merkel talks to focus on new vision for EU


TAOISEACH ENDA Kenny will travel to Berlin tomorrow evening for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel about the long-term future of the European Union.

The meeting takes place in the wake of final agreement on the second Greek bailout, with the focus turning to the ratification of the fiscal compact treaty.

Mr Kenny will join two other EU prime ministers for the discussion with the chancellor at Schloss Meseberg, the official German government guesthouse, outside Berlin.

The Czech prime minister Petr Necas and the prime minister of Latvia, Valdis Dombrovskis, have also been invited to the meeting as part of a series of talks involving the German chancellor and other EU leaders.

A Government spokesman said last night that the discussions would focus on the long-term vision for Europe once the current crisis has been overcome.

He added that the leaders would discuss how Europe can avoid a repeat of the problems that have bedevilled the EU for the past two years.

One of the issues the four leaders will address is how a more co-ordinated approach at EU level can help in that endeavour. “The focus will be on how we can avoid getting into this position again and in that context the fiscal compact is relevant,” added the spokesman.

The process to be adopted in Ireland for the ratification of the fiscal compact will not feature in the discussions as Attorney General Maire Whelan has not yet advised the Government on whether a referendum is necessary.

After the talks, which will be followed by dinner at Schloss Meseberg, Mr Kenny will travel on to Rome for a meeting with the Italian prime minister, Mario Monti, on Friday morning.

Mr Monti, like Mr Kenny, has emphasised the need for the EU to move on from the focus on austerity to agreement on policies that will promote economic growth in the years ahead.

Mr Kenny’s talks with the German chancellor come in the wake of a long-delayed deal on a second EU-IMF bailout for Greece, which was agreed early yesterday morning after 13 hours of talks between finance ministers.

While the bailout will see the European Central Bank and national central banks forgo profits on their Greek bonds, economics commissioner Olli Rehn and the Irish Government ruled out any similar measures for Ireland. When asked whether such measures might be necessary to ensure the sustainability of Ireland’s debt Mr Rehn replied: “No, it is not”.

The Commissioner added: “I repeat and I will keep on repeating. Greece is a specific case which will not be repeated in case of other euro area countries.”

Minister of State for Finance Brian Hayes, who represented the Government in the talks, appeared to take a different approach.

Asked if the Government should seek the return of profits the ECB makes on its holdings of Irish bonds, Mr Hayes had said “these are all issues that are part of the mix.” However, a Government spokeswoman said later that the Greek deal was unique to Greece. “Minister Hayes confirmed that Ireland is in discussions on the [Anglo Irish Bank] promissory notes and that Ireland is not seeking a deal from the ECB to forgo profits on Government bonds as was agreed with Greece,” she said.

In London last night, President Michael D Higgins gave a detailed explanation of the steps that he would take if the Government decided not to hold a referendum on the fiscal treaty.

“My consideration is as to whether there is an issue of constitutional significance raised,” he said, adding that “if there is” he would call a meeting of the Council of State.

“They offer an opinion. When that is over, I thank them for their opinion and I go and make my mind up as to whether I should refer it to the Supreme Court.”

He noted there “is a problem with such a move” because under Article 26 of the Constitution it closes off the opportunity for any other citizen ever to challenge the legislation.

“I am not at that point; the legislation has not been introduced,” said Mr Higgins. He added he was concerned that the concept of a shared union under the EU’s founding treaties had been lost.

That, he said, was very different to an accommodation between currencies that had to face pressures from “speculative forces”, he said.

The President was speaking after an address at the London School of Economics.