Crisis states can learn a lot from Ireland – Barroso
Published 06/03/2014 | 02:30
EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has hailed Ireland's successful bailout exit as a model for other EU states.
Mr Barroso (57) used a keynote address at an Irish university to praise the country's return to economic growth and vow that the EU would continue to support Ireland as "one of (our) best friends".
He also warned EU critics that Brussels would continue to defy doomsayers, with the euro having survived the worst financial and economic crisis of modern times.
But the former prime minister of Portugal urged Ireland to remember the solidarity and financial support that the EU displayed during the darkest days of the crisis.
Mr Barroso was speaking as he accepted an honorary doctorate from University College Cork (UCC).
Tight security marked the visit of the EU chief, with major protests mounted by anti-austerity campaigners.
UCC president Professor Michael Murphy insisted the award was richly merited given how the EU had helped transform Ireland's university sector.
In a reference to austerity, Mr Barroso said fiscal prudence had gone hand-in-hand in the EU with economic solidarity.
The EU Commission boss stressed that he personally backed Ireland's case for lower interest rates and longer maturities on loans after the November 2010 bailout.
Bailing out the Irish banks has to date cost over €50bn – and the banks are also dependent on Central Bank and European Central Bank funding of over €150bn.
"The EU Commission will continue to stand by Ireland now that you have exited the programme," Mr Barroso, below, said.
"I know it has not been easy. Let me tell you that I admire and respect the courage and resilience of the Irish people. Families have made big sacrifices," he added.
"But Ireland has shown it can be done if there is a determined effort across all parts of society and politics. And you had precious solidarity and financial support from the EU and its member states."
Mr Barroso made headlines last year when he warned that Ireland was not a victim of structural problems within the eurozone but rather that the euro was a victim of the implosion of Ireland's banking sector.
"It was the Irish banks that created a big problem for Ireland but also the other countries in the euro area. This should be taken into consideration," he said last summer.
But Mr Barroso said Ireland had turned the corner, and that 2013 had been "a very good year", with a successful EU council presidency and the bailout exit.
Ireland now needed to play a key role in the EU by helping other countries with its bailout expertise.
"Ireland's experience and expertise can benefit other European countries who are still working through their programmes. They are interested in the way you helped bring about an effective turn around."
"The OECD is increasingly citing best-practice examples drawn from the Irish economy. Ireland has returned to 'normal' in EU terms and I really expect it to engage and to use its influence in Europe to help us shape the right policies for the post-crisis era.