Yes vote very important, says Microsoft chief


BUSINESS GROUPS:THE MICROSOFT executive who runs the software company’s business outside of the US and Canada is the latest high-profile business leader to come out in favour of passing the Lisbon Treaty.

Jean-Philippe Courtois, president of Microsoft International, said it was “very important” not just for Ireland but for Europe as a whole that the treaty is ratified.

“We have a shift of power between China, Brazil, the Indias of the world and the US,” said Mr Courtois. “Europe needs to step up both economically speaking and politically speaking. That treaty has to be clearly embodied and move on with all the citizens in Europe.”

Calling himself more a “European citizen than French”, Mr Courtois said the European Union had benefited members. “We have all learned that many countries in Europe, including Ireland, have benefited tremendously from this European unified market,” he said.

“And, more than ever, Europe needs to be a model for many of the countries of the world.”

Last week Microsoft formally opened a major data centre facility in west Dublin which involved an investment of over €340 million and is a key part of its strategy to make software available over the internet.

The managers in Ireland of Microsoft, the world’s largest software company, and Intel, the biggest manufacturer of computer chips, have been vocal supporters of a Yes vote.

This comes despite both companies having been the recipients of record fines from the European Commission for anti-competitive practices in recent years.

Microsoft was fined €497 million in 2004 for abusing its dominant market position while earlier this year Intel was fined €1.06 billion for squeezing its competitor AMD out of the market.

Other prominent business people who have called for a Yes vote include Jim Barry, chief executive of NTR (National Toll Roads); Gary McGann, group chief executive of Smurfit Kappa Group; and Martin Naughton, executive chairman of Glen Dimplex.

Yesterday, the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) became the latest business group to call for a Yes vote on Friday.

“One of the most important benefits of EU membership is that it has given Ireland a voice and an influence in the EU that is much greater than its small size; an outcome which has significant economic consequences in developing a positive perception of Ireland as a location for investment and as a global trading partner,” said Dr Don Thornhill, NCC chairman.

The members of the council, which is an independent advisory body to the Government on matters relating to national competitiveness, said a Yes vote would protect the gains in living standards Ireland has made in recent decades and would secure future increases.

In a statement released to the media yesterday, the NCC said that Ireland’s prosperity is dependent on the country’s ability to sell goods and services in international markets. “Maintaining and strengthening our traditionally strong engagement with the EU is vital for the future success of Irish exporters and sustaining high levels of export-focused foreign direct investment,” the statement read.

Employers group Ibec said that 54 business and professional organisations were now backing a Yes vote to the Lisbon Treaty. They include the American Chamber of Commerce, Chambers Ireland, Ibec, Irish Exporters Association, Isme (Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association) and the Small Firms Association.

The group says its members provide 1.7 million private sector jobs.

Ibec said the organisations and business people believe a Yes vote is “an essential step on the road to economic recovery”.