British MEP condemns punitive bailout interest rate
INFLUENTIAL British MEP Sharon Bowles has said Ireland should be paying lower, not higher, interest rates than the other bailout countries.
The British MEP chairs the powerful economic and monetary committee at the European Parliament. The committee has been visiting Ireland on a fact-finding mission.
Speaking in Dublin, she said Ireland was the "best in the class" of the three distressed eurozone economies, so it was illogical for lenders to charge a higher rate.
Efforts by some European leaders, including the ECB's Mario Draghi, to depict the sovereign crisis as simply a problem on the European periphery, instead of one affecting all of Europe, were wrong and damaging to the EU, she said.
Ms Bowles said Ireland was being unfairly targeted for criticism by other countries.
"If we knew as much about German and French banks as we do about Irish banks, we would see a lot less of the holier-than-thou attitude" (towards Ireland), she said.
Her comments were part of a wide-ranging address to the Irish Institute of Europe Affairs.
Presidential hopeful Mairead McGuinness, along with Peter Matthews TD and figures from academia, law and industry, attended the event.
Ms Bowles said that if markets were given time to get over the volatility and fear, they would begin to recognise the difference between Ireland and other economies and realise that this country could meet the harsh bailout targets and grow out of the current crisis.
The main thrust of the session dealt with European-level efforts to regulate the financial-services sector.
Ms Bowles said political leaders were in danger of over-emphasising retrospective regulation.
There was, she said, a danger that rushing to regulate would hurt recovery, especially in relation to the appetite or ability of banks to make long-term investments.
"Banks are so risk-averse, they are over-regulating themselves at the moment," she said.
Regulation would have a key role down the line, when banks had moved out of crisis mode. In the meantime, the political challenge should focus more on growth -- especially in the worst-hit economies.
"Growth is what will get us out of the hole," she said.