European role in Irish budget
Madam, – The European Commission has put forward an idea that it would review national budgets and we’re suddenly talking about a loss of sovereignty and our corporate tax rate. The way we’ve been talking you’d think it was a done deal already, rather than a proposal on which we in Ireland need to have real and practical debate.
This proposal for budget review has come about because self-discipline has proven not to work – see Greece. We’re in the euro zone, so something needs to be done about making sure the rules we all signed up to are applied correctly, hence this proposal from the Commission. Now it is up to us as a country to work out if we agree with these proposals, if we want to suggest changes, or if we choose to reject them.
One point that is important to clarify in our national discussion is that only an Irish government can change our corporate tax rate, no one else.
Let’s be grown up about this and remember that these proposals from the Commission are just that. Proposals. A debate has begun and it is high time that Ireland sat at the adult’s table for this discussion, rather than throwing a tantrum before the starter has been served. – Yours, etc,
Madam, – Mary Lou McDonald (Opinion, May 17th) states that the European Commission’s recent proposal on reinforcing economic policy co-ordination will allow the Commission to inspect and change member states’ budgets, without the support of the government in question.
This is incorrect, as the proposal gives the Commission no such power and the Commission’s role would be limited to monitoring and identifying trends such as asset price bubbles. The recent Irish property bubble surely demonstrates that this is a useful innovation.
Further, Ms McDonald’s claim that the European Council will be empowered to impose cuts in public expenditure or changes to our tax regime does not reflect the text of the proposal. The purpose of the proposal is to ensure that EU states abide by the deficit rules of the euro – as set out in the stability and growth pact. Changes to national budgets could be required only to ensure that deficits beyond the permitted limits do not occur. This is an improvement on the current practice of penalising errant states after they have breached the deficit rules and the damage has already been done.
The statement that the proposals represent “what the EU intends to do to member states” underlines Sinn Féin’s understanding of the EU, as Sinn Féin appears to view the proposals as the actions of a foreign empire. In fact, the heads of state and government of EU countries requested the European Commission to produce the proposals to address the euro crisis. With the benefits of EU membership also come responsibilities and the reality is that EU member states are co-operating to protect the euro. – Yours, etc,
Madam, – I am surprised at the degree to which concerns raised by Fine Gael in reaction to European Commission budget co-ordination proposals have been claimed, most notably by Brian Lenihan TD, to necessarily represent a “Eurosceptic” stance (“Fine Gael’s dangerous flirtation with populist rhetoric”, Stephen Collins, Opinion, May 15th). This is clearly an unwarranted exaggeration of the reality. In addition, a mistaken assumption that could be conveyed from reading the article is that, to be regarded as pro-European, one must always agree with every proposal from the European Commission.
There are differing degrees of European integration proposed among Europhiles. While some would wish this to extend to the transformation of the EU into a fully-fledged state, opposition to such a development would not automatically represent a Eurosceptic stance.
Accordingly, in debates within the EU regarding its future direction, a balance must be struck somewhere between the scale of integration and the retention of existing spheres of national sovereignty.
Mr Lenihan described the argument made by Richard Bruton as “jingoistic” (Front page, May 13th), yet Mr Bruton is far from being the only senior pro-European politician to have expressed doubts about the proposed measures. The German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle (incidentally, also the leader of the German Free Democrat Party, which is a party committed to a politically integrated EU) has stated (World News, May 13th) that the proposals infringe upon a “core competence” of German parliamentary democracy. This is against the background that, arguably, the strongest public outcry in reaction to the EU debt crisis has been observed in Germany.
Another prominent pro-European leader, the Prime Minister of Sweden, Fredrik Reinfeldt, has also expressed reservations regarding Swedish participation in such co-ordination of fiscal policy as suggested by the European Commission.
It is important to note that there is nothing in the Lisbon Treaty, as written, that affects Irish determination to control its corporation tax rate. However, it is always possible for the Government to negotiate more integration in this regard. The granting of an EU veto over budgets by agreement would represent a significant shift as regards ultimate control over the fiscal policies of member states. – Yours, etc,