Presidency focus to be on EU jobs and growth


Both Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore stressed last night that “stability, jobs and growth” would be the key themes of Ireland’s EU presidency.

There would also be a special Cabinet meeting exclusively devoted to job creation “early in the new year”, Mr Kenny yesterday.

He said the State would assume the European Union presidency at what is probably one of the most challenging times of the last few decades.

Noting that there were 26 million unemployed in the EU, he said a people-centred union is central to “what we have to do here”.

He said that on a recent visit to Vienna he had met Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann, who took him to a youth centre and showed him how the guarantee of youth employment or further education or training works in that country.

“The level of unemployment among young people is practically negligible in Austria,” said the Taoiseach. “We have some of that here in Ireland but clearly not enough, with an unemployment rate among young people of 29 per cent, 58 per cent in Greece, 50 per cent in Spain . . . So we’re going to make the commission’s youth employment programme a central feature of our presidency.”

Referring to controversies concerning the budget, he said: “This has not been an easy budget . . . but then that’s the job you have in government. It would be very easy to prepare a budget in 10 or 15 minutes provided . . . you had a mountain of somebody else’s money to spend and no need for accountability in the way that is required now.”

“Getting the European economy back on track” would be a central theme of Ireland’s presidency, Mr Gilmore said at a press conference in Brussels.

This would be done by “improving the EU’s global competitiveness, promoting economic growth and creating jobs”, the Tánaiste said.

The presidency would be “one of realism but also of optimism. For us the glass is half-full and not half-empty”.

The presidency would build momentum towards an EU banking union, following last week’s agreement on a pan-European bank rescue mechanism, Mr Gilmore said.

The definition of legacy assets and legacy debt is among the issues to be addressed, he added.

Moves towards allowing the EU’s permanent bailout fund to “directly recapitalise banks” would be a priority, the Tánaiste said. “It is imperative that we move ahead as quickly as possible.”

Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton said it would be a “no-nonsense presidency”. “We intend our presidency to be about substance rather than about show or pomp,” Ms Creighton said.