Taoiseach says EU must aim for growth


PARTY MEETING:EU LEADERS must provide a “clear road map” toward growth in the coming weeks, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has told a gathering of European parliamentarians.

He told MEPs yesterday at a meeting of the European People’s Party (EPP), a confederation of centre-right groupings, that Ireland was “paying down” the external debts incurred during the property bubble. He stressed however the need for better policy co-ordination between “the surplus and the deficit countries”.

However, he cautioned that there were “no instant solutions” to the euro zone debt crisis. Building for the future required “courage, understanding, co-operation and vision”.

Speaking against a backdrop of Killarney’s lakes and mountains, visible through the windows of the Europe Hotel, he recalled that the EPP had previously met in the same location in 1979 when the late Dr Garret FitzGerald was Fine Gael leader.

German MEP Elmar Brok said: “Ireland is a shining example of how, by playing by the rules, you can gradually get back on your feet.” He wanted to congratulate the Government for its “courageous” performance.

There was no “one size fits all” solution. “This is not a question of ‘either/or’, as the socialists allege. You have to have both a balanced budget and growth.”

Austerity alone was not the recipe and had never generated growth on its own. “There needs to be structural reform,” Mr Brok said. “I can see that Ireland is making headway.”

There had been important structural reforms in Spain, Portugal and Italy. “Once the structures have been mended, we have to invest for growth,” the Christian Democrat MEP added.

Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton was applauded by the assembled MEPs when she said austerity and growth were not incompatible.

“We are happy that we are on course,” she said, in reference to the Government’s economic policy. “If anything, we are slightly ahead of target. At the same time, we need to move on.”

She added: “The single market is our sharpest weapon in the fight for growth.”