‘Speculative markets’ replacing power of parliament, warns President

EU must be aware of ‘social consequences of its actions’

President Michael D Higgins has warned that speculative markets and rating agencies are now seen as having more power than elected parliaments in addressing economic problems. Photograph: Eric Luke /The Irish Times

President Michael D Higgins has warned that speculative markets and rating agencies are now seen as having more power than elected parliaments in addressing economic problems. Photograph: Eric Luke /The Irish Times

 

Speculative markets and rating agencies are now seen as having more power than elected parliaments in addressing economic problems, President Michael D Higgins has warned.

Many people in Europe “feel more and more disconnected” and felt they had no control over the decisions made on their economies, he said, during a state visit to Croatia. This “must give us all cause for concern as leaders”, he added.

Citizens did not exist in “the abstract, theoretical world of speculative markets and computer algorithms” but had “real needs and real contributions to make”, he said.

Mr Higgins also warned the EU must be aware of the “social consequences of its actions” and not become a “dry technocratic” body with a “limited moral base”.

Europe’s values should be a top priority and problems must be tackled including “ a recurrence of racism and an increasing deficit of democratic accountability”, he said in an address at the University of Zagreb.

“We need a Europe that shows solidarity with the most vulnerable among us - that throws real energy and determination behind efforts to create real sustainable growth,” Mr Higgins added.

Unemployment, and youth unemployment in particular, was a “blight” that “carries a danger of delegitimising democratic institutions”.

“Too many Europeans are without jobs, too many Europeans feel they are without prospects,” he added.

Croatia will become the 28th EU member state on July 1st and Mr Higgins questioned why public support for the union was “still tentative”. Figures show just over 50 per cent of Croats support EU membership while only 43.5 per cent of the electorate turned out to vote in a referendum last year to join the union.

“Is it that Croatian citizens feel removed from the process in the European Union, unable to fully accept that EU membership can be of benefit to their lives, and the futures of their children?” he asked.

Mr Higgins presented the university with a copy of the Book of Durrow, a 7th century illustrated book of the gospel, and coins minted in 2007 and bearing a design by Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic. Mestrovic sent the design to Dublin in 1926 for a competition for Irish coins. His entry was received too late but the design was later adopted as the Irish Central Bank’s seal.

Mr Higgins ends his official visit tomorrow with a business lunch attended by Enterprise Ireland, Tourism Ireland and Bord Bia. Local business will be represented by the Croatian Chamber of Economy and the Croatian Employers’ Association.