President’s comments on Europe ‘helpful’ says Gilmore

Tanaiste says interview was in line with themes of Ireland’s EU presidency

President Michael D Higgins and European Parliament president Martin Schulz addressing journalists during a press briefing at the European Parliament in Strasbourg last month.

President Michael D Higgins and European Parliament president Martin Schulz addressing journalists during a press briefing at the European Parliament in Strasbourg last month.

 

ARTHUR BEESLEY

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said President Michael D Higgins’ remarks on European policy in a forthright interview in today’s Financial Times, were “helpful” to the Government in the debate on the euro zone.

He said Mr Higgins was merely reflecting the views of Ireland’s EU presidency.

In the interview Mr Higgins intervened directly in political debate on the euro zone debt crisis, criticising the response of European leaders and the actions of the European Central Bank.

In some of his most forthright public remarks since taking office, Mr Higgins said the introduction of jointly-issued eurobonds could create scope to boost the economic recovery.

He also took issue with the failure of EU leaders to fulfil their pledge almost one year ago to break the link between bank and sovereign debt.

“The president has been both in his speech to the European Parliament, and indeed in his interview, has been very accurately reflecting the themes of the Irish presidency which is about stability, jobs and growth,” Mr Gilmore said.

“As a Government we have made it very clear that the route to economic recovery is not only through budget adjustment, it’s also through growing the European economy and this has been a consistent view that the Irish Government has expressed from the very beginning of this crisis.”

Asked about the President’s criticism of EU leaders and the European Central Bank, Mr Gilmore said Mr Higgins had made a very signfiicant contribution to the debate about Europe’s direction

“I’m very proud of the fact that during the course of the Irish presidency the president of Ireland made a very clear keynote address to the European Parliament reflecting very clearly the priorities which the Government has for our presidency and the direction which we want see Europe taking.”

When it was put to the Tanaiste that the President was more pointed in his interview than in his speech last month to the European Parliament, Mr Gilmore said Mr Higgins remarks about the separation of bank and sovereign debt reflected decisions made by the European Council.

“The European Council decided last June that the link between sovereign and bank debt should be broken and again that was an approach that the Irish Government has been advocating from a very early stage,” Mr Gilmore said.

“So there is a debate in Europe about economic direction, as a Government and as a country we are participating in that debate. From the very beginning of the EU presidency we have made it very clear that the recovery of Europe’s economy and indeed our own economic recovery is based not just on budget adjustments - that’s important certainly of course - deficits have to come down but we have to adopt measures that get the European economy and that get jobs created.”

Mr Higgins also advocated the adoption of jointly-issued eurobonds, a policy spurned by Germany. When this was put to Mr Gilmore, he said the President was reflecting the Irish position in that debate.