Paschal Donohoe elected president of key euro-zone body

Minister will lead euro-zone finance team in funding cost of pandemic and recovery

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and president of the Eurogroup:  “What I will do is continue to find the balance between . . . what is right for Europe and for Ireland overall.”  Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and president of the Eurogroup: “What I will do is continue to find the balance between . . . what is right for Europe and for Ireland overall.” Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has said he will seek to find “an equilibrium” between Ireland’s interest on taxation and the interests of the EU, following his election as president of the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers on Thursday.

Mr Donohoe takes up the reins of the influential group of European finance ministers as EU countries wrestle with plans for a joint-EU fund to pay the costs of the pandemic and provide a stimulus to member-state economies.

Speaking at Government Buildings, Mr Donohoe said that on the issue of taxation, Ireland’s national position was “very, very clear”.

“During the campaign when I was asking for the vote of colleagues, they understood what our national position on these matters was. But every colleague that I engaged with had a national position on issues that really mattered to them. And that is the way the European project works.

“What I will do is continue to find the balance between national interest here in Ireland, that will not change, and trying to find an equilibrium between them and what is right for Europe and for Ireland overall.”

Mr Donohoe also said agreement must be reached on the EU recovery fund.

EU leaders are due to meet in Brussels next week, in a bid to overcome the deadlock on the proposed fund, which has pitted some of the more “frugal” northern countries against Mediterranean countries.

Ireland has sided with the southern countries, while German chancellor Angela Merkel has also switched her position, coming out in support of a joint-EU approach to raising the recovery fund, which Germany previously opposed.

Mr Donohoe was elected by the 19 finance ministers of the euro zone during an online meeting.

The successful bid means Mr Donohoe will have the role of chairing and setting the agenda for discussions among the euro-zone finance ministers, as well as setting the long-term agenda for the influential group.

Mr Donohoe argued he would bring a unique perspective to the role as Ireland straddles the north/south divides on economic policy in the EU, is a country that underwent a bailout, and is one that allies with northern countries on some issues and Mediterranean countries on others.

Other candidates

His bid beat that of the Spanish candidate, Nadia Calvino, who had been favoured by France, Germany and some Mediterranean countries as an economist with experience working within the EU institutions who would make the argument for a generous response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The third candidate, Luxembourg finance minister Pierre Gramenga, who, like Mr Donohoe, pitched himself as a bridge-builder, was eliminated in the first round of voting.

The position is unpaid and part-time, and Mr Donohoe will combine it with his responsibilities as Minister for Finance.

Mr Donohoe said on Thursday night he would work “night and day” to fulfil both roles.

Congratulating him, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said his election was “a great win for Ireland”.

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