Top civil servant says 'shine' has gone off Ireland in EU


EU COMMISSION:IRELAND NEEDS to re-engage with Europe as part of its efforts to overcome its economic difficulties, the EU’s most senior civil servant has warned.

Irishwoman Catherine Day, the secretary general of the EU Commission, said the “shine” had gone off Ireland in Europe, and we had lost goodwill. People did not believe the Irish were “good Europeans” anymore.

“The perception is that the more prosperous Ireland became, the more arrogant it became, and the less it engaged. It shouldn’t be a fair-weather engagement.”

Speaking in Dublin yesterday, Ms Day said the commission supported a lowering of the interest rate for Ireland on its bailout loans and believed there were good prospects of this happening soon. It also supported a slower rate of deleveraging through the sale of State assets to raise money.

However, she held out little hope of bondholders sharing the burden of Ireland’s debt. “This is primarily for the ECB to decide. They are providing the liquidity to keep Irish banks going and they have all the means to prevail with their arguments.”

Ms Day said she understood that Irish people felt the burden of debt was enormous and wished that they could just shrug it off, but “life isn’t that simple”.

Describing the bailout as “tough but sustainable”, she said the alternatives were “even less attractive”.

“The best expertise in the world says this is the best way.”

It had already been difficult to convince a sceptical German public that bailouts in countries like Ireland were necessary to protect the euro.

“This is a crisis of individual countries in the euro zone, not a crisis of the euro. The euro has been remarkably stable and will go on to be strong.”

She said the commission “wants strong medicine so the patient will be cured, but we don’t want it so strong that the patient dies”. This was why it was supporting a reduction in interest rates and slower deleveraging.

She warned that Ireland, and not “one government or another”, had signed up to the EU-IMF deal, and the amount of adjustment allowed under the programme should not be exaggerated.