Kenny seeks German backing

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has pressed Angela Merkel's Bavarian coalition allies for European leaders to follow up their promises of additional solidarity measures for Ireland.

Mr Kenny is in Bavaria to meet members of the Christian Social Union (CSU) to explain Ireland's EU presidency priorities and its reform progress. While that generated "a lot of applause", according to participants at this morning's closed-door meeting, CSU members were non-committal on Irish hopes for a re-tooled promissory note or bank recapitalisation deal.

"I emphasised that while Ireland has made very steady progress in adhereing to all conditions ... our economic situation remains fragile and needs ongoing support and solidarity from our European colleagues," said Mr Kenny at a press conference in Wildbad Kreuth, a snowy former spa near the Austrian border.

"I briefed on the importance of making progress on bank legacy debt issues ... and I reiterated Ireland's very strong determination to exit its programme as planned in 2014 to demonstrate that this can be not just a good news story for Ireland but for Europe."

After the meeting, the CSU’s Bundestag leader Gerda Haselfeldt said constructive talks on both promissory note and banking recapitalisation were ongoing. She conceded that reaching a conclusion was important but declined to elaborate on what any deal could involve.

Ireland's reform success to date was important not just to restore confidence in Ireland, she said, but lay in the European interest.

"We have great respect for what Ireland has done in this programme and ... the Taoiseach made a convincing case what has been asked of people with austerity meaures," said Mrs Hasselfeldt. "Our goal with reform programmes isn't to boss anyone around but to restore the economic competitiveness and ensure budgetary rules are met."

Mrs Haselfeldt said there was a "lot of understanding for Ireland's special situation", echoing language of a 2012 Dublin-Berlin communiqué, but CSU MPs worry that agreeing to Dublin's additional bank debt demands could annoy voters at home or, worse, have an unintended effect elsewhere in Europe.

"Our concern is that a readjustment of conditions could weaken the reform incentive for other countries that are not as succesful for Ireland," said Thomas Silberhorn, MP for the city of Bamberg.

While the Bavarian allies of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) are known for their rebellious streak, officials have said to expect no dissent from Berlin on Ireland's requests.

Facing twin state and federal elections this year, the CSU is anxious to ensure that, despite backing unpopular reform measures, it is seen by voters here as the defender of Bavarian's interests in Berlin and Brussels. Further measures to Ireland, they worry, could be a step to far.

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