Very good week for Europe and European project, says Noonan


MINISTER FOR Finance Michael Noonan yesterday suggested that this had been a “very good week for Europe”. Mr Noonan was speaking in Rome after meeting his Italian counterpart, Vittorio Grilli, ahead of a two-day summit of EU finance ministers in Cyprus beginning today.

Mr Noonan highlighted at least three positive elements: the proposal last weekend by Mario Draghi, governor of the European Central Bank, to intervene in the bond market; the German constitutional court’s decision to back the European Stability Mechanism bailout fund; and European Commission president José Manuel Barroso’s speech to the European parliament setting out objectives.

“Take it all together and you would have to conclude that it has been a pretty good week for Europe and for the European project and we hope we can add to that tomorrow in Cyprus,” the Minister said yesterday.

“The fallout from Mr Draghi’s proposal to intervene in the bond market has had a very positive effect on spreads. I mean Ireland was at 5.33 per cent yesterday, exceptionally low.

“We sold treasury bills this morning [Thursday] for an interest rate of 0.7 per cent. In July, we sold similar treasury bills for 1.8 per cent, so it has been more than halved in a couple of months . . .”

Mr Noonan was meeting Mr Grilli just one day after he held similar meetings with his French counterpart Pierre Moscovici and German finance minister Wolfgang Schaüble.

Asked if he had been engaged in a “charm offensive” explaining Ireland’s position to senior EU partners, Mr Noonan replied: “I don’t think I have been on a charm offensive, I think this has been a sharing of information and an establishing of positions. We requested these meetings and it is my responsibility to explain the Irish position to our colleagues in Europe.”

The Minister expects the upcoming meeting to be harmonious and productive: “I think this weekend’s meeting will be the first serious discussion about banking union . . . All the programme countries plus Spain will be discussed today and then the banking union will be a major issue also . . . and I will have an opportunity to explain things about Ireland because I will be called on to speak as a result of the Central Bank and the commission describing Ireland’s implementation of its programme.”